Melissa Sperka is one of the most popular online Southern home cooks, with her fan base stretching from her blog to her Pinterest page to Facebook. Now she presents a cookbook packed with over one hundred of the recipes that made her famous, including everything from hearty breakfasts to quick-and-easy family dinners. Melissa’s Southern Cookbook (The Countryman Press, 2016) is a labor of love, paying homage to those who raised her with a love of cooking, baking, and living Southern-style. These recipes hold dear the rapidly-vanishing tradition of gathering around the table for meal together. Every Southern favorite is here, and in these excerpts you’ll find the best: fried chicken with a crunch, BLT-inspired macaroni salad, cheesy spaghetti, and warm, fluffy cinnamon rolls. Try these comfort food from the comfort of your own home, and follow in the footsteps of Melissa and her family to start new traditions around your own dinner table.
Cheesy Bacon Ranch Chicken Spaghetti
Baked pasta casseroles like this one are a go-to favorite of mine because they can be assembled in advance and popped into the oven when it’s mealtime. The creamy ranch sauce is so delicious, no one will ever believe you whipped it up using your blender.
• 3/4 pound thin spaghetti
• 3 cups roughly chopped roasted chicken
• 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
• 1 (14 ounce) can low-sodium chicken stock
• 1 (10-3/4 ounce) can cream of celery soup
• 8 ounces chive and onion cream cheese, softened
• 8 ounces sour cream
• 1/2 cup real mayonnaise
• 1 (0.4 ounce) packet dried buttermilk ranch dressing mix
• 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Cook the spaghetti in salted water per the package instructions until al dente. Drain well. Place in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the chicken and all 2 tablespoons of the bacon crumbles to the bowl, reserving the remaining bacon crumbles for garnish.
4. In a stand blender, combine the chicken stock, celery soup, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, 1 tablespoon of the chives, and the garlic powder and pepper. Blend until smooth and fully combined.
5. Pour the blended mixture over the spaghetti. Add 1 cup of the cheddar cheese. Mix well.
6. Pour half of the spaghetti mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the cheddar cheese. Repeat with the remaining spaghetti, topping with the remaining cup of cheddar cheese.
7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Let rest on the counter for 5 minutes. Garnish with the reserved bacon crumbles and remaining chives just before serving.
More from Melissa's Southern Cookbook:
Reprinted with permission from Melissa’s Southern Cookbook: Tried-and-True Family Recipes by Melissa Sperka, published by The Countryman Press, a division of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2016.