This began as a Crockpot recipe and was just as delicious. After making it a few times, I decided I preferred the idea of a casserole instead. All of the ingredients are cooked in advance, then layered before cooking. With the casserole option, I can make it ahead of time, cover with foil and freeze it until it comes up on our menu. It freezes and thaws well in the refrigerator, making it a cinch to throw in the oven when I get home from work until it is hot and bubbly.
Since we are dairy-free, I refrain from using actual cheese here. You could definitely add cheese if you prefer, but we love Go Veggie Foods Dairy-free Parmesan Style Topping so much that we aren't missing cheese one bit. The "cream of something soup mix" also adds to the creaminess and makes it so delicious!
16 oz jar prepared spaghetti sauce
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/4 cup water
1/3 cup Cream of Celery soup
1 cup fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 package pepperoni
2 cups gluten-free pasta noodles, cooked according to package instructions and drained
Go Veggie Foods Dairy-free Parmesan Style Topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
In a skillet over medium high heat, brown the ground beef. Drain off any excess grease. Add onion, garlic, seasonings and spaghetti sauce. Turn heat to low and allow it to simmer.
Place the cream soup mix into a small saucepan. Over medium heat, gradually whisk in the water until all lumps are dissolved. Allow mixture to heat while stirring frequently until it begins to thicken. Once thickened, turn off the heat and set the soup aside to cool slightly.
In the baking dish, layer one-third of the meat sauce, a thin layer of fresh spinach, an even layer of pepperoni, one-half of the noodles. Repeat one time. Top with the cooled soup mixture, then add a final layer of meat sauce, spinach, and pepperoni. Sprinkle dairy-free parmesan or other dairy-free cheese over the top. (If you're not dairy-free, feel free to add whatever cheese you prefer here.)
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly. We love our Pizza Casserole with garlic bread. Udi's Gluten-free French Bread is perfect for this (and dairy-free too!).
*Because everything is fully cooked ahead, the time in the oven is just to let the flavors meld together and heat it up. I find this dish to be a great use for leftover spaghetti sauce and any shape pasta. I never seem to make the right amount of either so there are usually disproportionate leftovers, which I like to freeze and use later. I like to use Barilla Gluten-free pastas and find that the penne and elbow noodles freeze and thaw/reheat wonderfully!
This casserole can also be put together, topped with foil and frozen for later use. In the morning, place the casserole in the refrigerator to thaw and it will be ready to bake in the evening!