It’s the season for sharing, and this Johnny Marzetti recipe is a simple, satisfying casserole that can feed a crowd!
I imagine at this point in our blogging relationship, most of you realize how much I enjoy sharing food with others. It’s by far my favorite gift to give. One of my greatest joys is seeing the look of pleasure and satisfaction on someone’s face as they enjoy a home cooked meal.
However, as much as I love sharing food, I don’t do it nearly as much as I would like. You know why? It’s because I think it has to be perfect. I want the table to be set with pretty dishes and freshly ironed linens. I want the house to be clean, the mood music to be playing softly, and the candles to be lit. I want the meal to dazzle, the wine to be a flawless match, and the dessert to leave just the right touch of sugar on my guest’s tongue.
But all of these expectations only serve to stress me out and keep me from doing the thing I love most: inviting people to gather at my table and share good food.
This Johnny Marzetti is my answer to the hospitality stress factor. This dish isn’t fancy, expensive, or elaborate. It’s just good, homey, satisfying food that can feed a crowd. Actually, make that an army.
This casserole was literally crafted for sharing. According to the Ohio Historical Society, it was developed by Teresa Marzetti right here in Columbus, Ohio. Ever heard of Marzetti dressings? Yeah, that’s the Marzetti family we’re talking about. The Marzetti family were Italian immigrants who settled in Columbus and started their own Italian restaurant.
The Marzetti restaurant was located downtown, near the starving masses of Ohio State University students. Johnny Marzetti, named for Teresa’s brother-in-law, was created specifically as a cheap but delicious way to feed hungry souls. The original recipe was a humble mixture of noodles, ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheese and was sold for just 45 cents.
The dish was a raving success, and it’s fame spread throughout the Midwest, even showing up in school cafeterias. In our area, Johnny Marzetti remains a common household name, and still serves as a hearty and satisfying meal.
While there are many different variations of Johnny Marzetti, I like to keep mine simple, just like the original. I stick with ground beef, macaroni noodles, tomato sauce, and LOTS of cheese, but also toss in a green pepper, some mushrooms, and my favorite seasonings. It’s a classic combo that’s tough to mess up, and it’s also a wonderful reminder for me that sometimes the simplest things are the most powerful.
This casserole really does make enough to feed a small army, so it’s a great excuse to invite your neighbors (or the whole town) over and share a meal with them. It’s also a lovely comfort food to take to new moms or grieving families. Toss in some cheesy homemade garlic bread and easy Caesar salad and you have a complete meal.
Here’s to giving up perfection and choosing generosity instead. I think in the end, we won’t remember the dusty floors or the dirty dishes, but the relationships forged and the conversations had as we clinked glasses and passed the pasta around for seconds.
This classic casserole made with pasta, ground beef, and vegetables in a cheesy tomato sauce is perfect comfort food that can feed a crowd!
- 1 lb. macaroni pasta
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
- 2 lbs. ground beef (or swap 1 lb. for Italian sausage)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 (14 oz) cans tomato sauce
- 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
- Pinch sugar
- 2 cups cheddar cheese, divided
- 2 cups Italian blend cheese, divided
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil for the macaroni. Cook the macaroni until on the firmer side of al dente, about 7 minutes. I like to under do it because it will continue to soften in the casserole. Drain the pasta, then return it to the pot and set aside.
- In the meantime, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, green pepper, and mushrooms to the skillet and saute until softened, about five minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until no pink remains. Drain the fat off the beef mixture, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, garlic, oregano, Italian herbs, and sugar to the beef mixture. Allow it to simmer for five or so minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Carefully pour the beef mixture into the pot with the noodles and stir to combine. Add 1 cup of cheddar cheese and 1 cup of Italian blend to the mix. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Top with the remaining 2 cups of cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until cheese is golden and melted. Top with parsley for serving.
Recipe adapted from The Ohio Historical Society
For more information about Johnny Marzetti, check out this story from Canton Rep.
If you loved this recipe, I also recommend checking out All Free Casserole Recipe’s archive of ground beef casserole recipes for more ideas!