Johnny Marzetti Recipe and History (2024)

Johnny Marzetti Recipe and History (1)

I have beenmakingJohnny Marzettifor years and years. Recently my son asked if I have


my recipes in our familycookbook.

On furtherinspection of my cookbook, (a Scrapbook Cookbook I made), I realized that I have not added recipes I use oftenand know from memory. For instance my deviledeggs recipe is missing, simply because I just whip them up. So for the last couple of weeks I have beentrying to add recipes that I know the kids love, but I have neglected to writedown.
One of those happens to be the Johnny Marzetti. I decided to find out a little history on thecreation of such an easy, delicious and well known recipe and was surprised tofind out it was created right here in Ohio.

OhioanTeresa Marzettiwas the first person to serve the casserole Johnny Marzetti in their family restaurant.
In 1896, Italian immigrant Marzetti arrived in the

United States of America


Johnny Marzetti Recipe and History (2)

That same year, Marzetti established an Italian restaurant in



Broad Street

. That restaurant closed in 1942, but another restaurant owned by the family, which had opened in 1919, remained in operation until 1972, when Teresa Marzetti died.

Before opening the original restaurant, Marzetti wrote, "We will start a new place and serve good food. At a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but we will serve good food."

Owners Teresa andJoseph Marzetti sought a simple main course, easy and cheap to make.
It had to be scalable to feed the masses, the starved college students from


just down the street. One of the dishes that Marzetti offered her customers became known as Johnny Marzetti, which was namedafter Teresa Marzetti's brother-in-law.

A baked casserole, the dish included ground beef,cheese, tomato sauce, and noodles. It was a sensation at 45 cents.

It is unclear when Marzetti's restaurant first offered the dish, but by the 1920s, it had become popular across


and the


. This was primarily due to the ease of preparation and the tastiness of Johnny Marzetti.

Johnny Marzetti Recipe and History (3)

Then the ColumbusPublic Schools got wind of it and served it in school cafeterias. This made thecasserole a staple in schools throughout the state. It remains the No. 1cafeteria dish fondly remembered and duplicated at home.

Other ingredientsand seasonings have been added over the years, to adjust to the tasteof differentcooks. The dish spread to other parts of the United Stateswhen Marzetti released the recipe and variations of it were published inmagazines and cookbooks during the mid-20th century. The dish is still served,especially at social gatherings and in school lunchrooms.

Johnny Marzetti Recipe and History (4)
Building of the Panama Canal

Although the Marzetti’s restaurant is long gone, her salad dressings continue on with theMarzetti Company, and her signature casserole dish is still popular.Even the U.S. Armygrabbed it for battlefield kitchens. Troops in Panama ate so much of it, itspilled over into the community.
Locals still call it “Johnny Marzetti” and addolives and Arturo sauce. They also claim it as their national dish.

The Ohio Historical Society has preserved Teresa Marzetti’s original recipe.
It’s themother recipe for all the ones that followed.
Here it is:


3 tablespoonsolive oil

1 large onion,chopped
3⁄4 poundmushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 pounds leanground beef
3 1⁄2 cups tomatosauce
1 1⁄2 poundscheddar cheese, shredded
1 pound elbowmacaroni, cooked and drained

Sauté onion inoil until limp, about 3 minutes.
Add mushrooms and fry until juices arereleased, about 5 minutes.
Add beef and cook, stirring, breaking up clumps,until no longer red.
Remove from heat and mix in tomato sauce and all but 1 cupof cheese.
Transfer to greased 9- by 13-inch baking dish and add macaroni.
Tossgently to mix. Scatter remaining cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, in 350-degreeoven until browned and bubbling (35 to 40 minutes). Serves 10 to 12.

My husband Bill toldme that when growing up in Wisconsin,his family ate a similar casserole, but his Mother called it Goulash.

Just so you know thedifference, Goulash ( Hungarian: gulyás) is a soup or stew of meat, noodles andvegetables (especially potato),seasoned with paprikaand other spices. Originating in Hungary, goulash is also a popular meal in many countriesincluding Austria,Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,Liechtenstein,Lithuania,Latvia,Poland,Romania,Russia,Serbia,Slovakia,Slovenia,Ukraineand others.

Here is my ownversion of Johnny Marzetti. I’m not surewhere I originallyfound the recipe, but I think I got it from the 1976 paperback edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook. I founda really similarJohnny Marzetti recipe on page 461 called Family Goulash, and with celery added. I also flipped to page 468, the Hungarian Goulash, and it's more of the soup/stew version. Since I have been making it since the late 1970’s to early 1980’s Ipretty surethis cookbook iswhere I firstfound the recipe. I can tell you I nearly cooked the cover off that paperback, being ayoung wife and mother.

Elizabeth’s JohnnyMarzetti

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup chopped celery
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce (more if desired)

2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, (or 1 diced, one stewed) drain a little
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon chopped oregano
1tablespoon chopped parsley

Pinch of sea salt

Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
2 - 8 oz packages of grated cheddar, Italian or mozzarella cheese
About 3 cups dried or 12 ozs of macaroni noodles

Cook noodles; drain and set aside.

In a large skillet cook ground beef until mostly brown. Add onion, garlic and celery;

Cook until meatis done and vegetables are tender.Drain off grease. Add tomatosauce, diced tomatoes and seasonings. Simmer about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heatand let cool slightly.

In a large bowl mix cooked noodles with meat mixture. Mix in 1 to1 ½ packages of cheese. I use both shreddedcheddar and mozzarella mixed together.And don’t be afraid to add more cheese, if like me, you love cheese!

Use butter to grease a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish. Spread the meat noodle mixture into thecasserole dish and then sprinkle the top with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 to 40minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbling.


Serve with a tossed salad and garlic bread.

My neighbor just had a baby and this is the casserole dish I took over. It is a great comfort food, easy to double and perfect for parties, BBQ's, church suppers and potlucks.



Other Recipes:

RoastedAsparaguswith Feta Cheese

Cucumber Sandwiches

Jamaican Pork Tenderloin

Johnny Marzetti Recipe and History (2024)


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