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Johnny Marzetti

It’s the season for sharing, and this Johnny Marzetti recipe is a simple, satisfying casserole that can feed a crowd!

You can't go wrong with this Johnny Marzetti recipe packed with ground beef, tomato sauce, and CHEESE!

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 Johnny Marzetti Casserole recipe is always a crowd pleaser!

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.

This Johnny Marzetti recipe is a classic Ohio favorite that feeds a crowd!

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.

Packed with noodles, beef, tomatoes, and cheese, you can't go wrong with classic Johnny Marzetti Casserole!


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.

Johnny Marzetti

Prep Time 25 minsPrep Time
Cook Time 30 minsCook Time
Total Time 55 mins Total Time
Yields 12

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


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


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Recipe adapted from The Ohio Historical Society  

For more information about Johnny Marzetti, check out this story from Canton Rep.

Looking for great side dishes to go with this meal? I recommend this easy cheesy homemade garlic bread and That Good Salad.

This salad, known in our family only as That Good Salad, is the best combination of crunchy, fresh, bacony, cheesy goodnees!

If you loved this recipe, I also recommend checking out All Free Casserole Recipe’s archive of ground beef casserole recipes for more ideas!

{ 49 comments… add one }

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  • Renee Dobbs November 9, 2014, 7:31 AM

    What a great story and casserole. I love the simplicity of it and all the comfort that goes with it too.

  • Liz Weber Berg November 9, 2014, 8:27 AM

    Oh, yeah, my whole family would love this! Plus it’s a great recipe to make for friends who need comfort!

  • Katie November 9, 2014, 10:24 AM

    Holy moly! I have never heard of Johnny Marzetti before, but I can totally see how amazing and comforting it would be. Talk about a crowd pleaser!

  • Nichole C November 9, 2014, 10:38 AM

    I overthink, and stress over having friends over for good food, and company too. But it shouldn’t be so complicated, right?! This looks perfect for a crowd, and I am with the Marzettis’ – give me all the pasta, please.

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood November 9, 2014, 1:31 PM

      I am the same way! Always overthinking. But it really doesn’t have to be so difficult!

  • Jennifer Drummond November 9, 2014, 11:30 AM

    Wow! Your dish looks just amazing! Perfect for a Sunday dinner!

  • Isabel Laessig November 9, 2014, 1:22 PM

    I have been dying to see this recipe since you posted the title — let me tell you, it does not disappoint!!

  • Shaina Wizov November 9, 2014, 5:40 PM

    Casseroles are the best for big crowds, this is definite comfort food!!

  • Jennie @themessybakerblog November 9, 2014, 5:45 PM

    What you’re saying is that you’re going to invite me over for this pasta dish, right? I believe that’s what I read. I hope so, too, because it look amazing.

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood November 9, 2014, 9:22 PM

      Oh, you’re definitely invited. You didn’t think we were going to eat all of this ourselves, did you?

  • Marion Myers November 9, 2014, 6:58 PM

    I know this is delish! I make something very similar and the family always loves it. I had no idea it has an actual name and a wonderful history behind it! This is definitely comfort food and is always a winner. Yummm!

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood November 9, 2014, 9:23 PM

      I like to see how it’s spread throughout the U.S. I think some folks call it goulash or just macaroni casserole.

  • cupcakekalechip November 9, 2014, 9:37 PM

    This reminds me of something my grandma used to make, so it is totally evoking childhood comfort food memories for me.

  • Betsy Cohen November 10, 2014, 10:23 PM

    I did not know the story behind Johnny Marzetti and I love it. I hope you entertain more often. You bring so much fun and flair to whatever table you are set and, after all, you are the Queen of the Neighborhood!

  • Karly Campbell November 11, 2014, 11:36 AM

    Ooh, I can totally get down with this casserole! So good!

  • The Semisweet Sisters November 11, 2014, 3:26 PM

    Interesting story about the Marzetti family. This pasta casserole looks amazing!

  • Dorothy at ShockinglyDelicious November 12, 2014, 1:44 PM

    At last, my “what is Johnny Marzetti” curiosity is quenched! I’ll be making this good lookin’ casserole.

  • Alice November 13, 2014, 8:57 PM

    this is easily a dish we are going to try this winter… how perfect!! : ) I think there are a few different names Johnny something-or-other that people know it by too cuz I’ve heard different surnames for this dish but its all essentially the same dish.

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood November 14, 2014, 10:34 AM

      This dish has definitely spread far and wide and I think it’s known by all sorts of different names now. I hope you love it!

  • Courtney @ Neighborfood November 14, 2014, 10:44 AM

    That’s the truth Cindy!

  • Bobbi @BobbisKozyKtchn November 18, 2014, 2:58 PM

    I had never heard of this dish before but you can bet I will never forget it! It looks so comforting and delicious!!

  • Michael Garrity May 25, 2015, 9:57 PM

    For some reason, I got “a hankerin'” for some Johnny Marzetti, I had not had any in years, but it just popped up in my mind to make some. Even though I am down in Central Florida and even though today was Memorial Day and still officially spring, it is already summer down here. The afternoon temps are already running in the mid to high 90s. Still, even though this is dish that is great for on a cold yucky Ohio night—I am from Ohio too–from around Dayton way with Cincinnati being part of my stomping grounds when I am back in Ohio. I found this recipe to serve as my basis for making the dish since I had not made it in years—-I used to be a cook aboard US Coast Guard cutters and shore stations. The crews always liked it. Growing up back in O-HI-O, this dish was a regular item on the menu starting with elementary school, junior high and high school. I guess I never thought about it, but I had not known the connection between the Marzetti family of Columbus who had that great restaurant. When I was a kid, my family would eat there are few times a year. I always have loved their dressings, still using them with their Spinach Salad Dressing being my fave, which I just use on my regular salads. Add some nuts of some sort and some crumbly blue cheese, and that makes for one great salad. Thanks for sharing that bit of Ohio history, Courtney.

    • Michael Garrity May 25, 2015, 10:02 PM

      The recipe made so much, I will be sharing the leftovers with some friends and neighbors. I had a few helpings and it doesn’t even look like I made more than a ding in what is the dutch oven I cooked mine in.

      • Courtney @ Neighborfood May 26, 2015, 12:56 PM

        It definitely feeds a crowd! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and were able to share it. Now you can have a little piece of Ohio no matter where you are. 🙂

  • Courtney @ Neighborfood January 19, 2016, 1:00 PM

    Hahaha! I don’t know how I missed that one!

  • Trish Coppola-Mangold February 13, 2017, 2:02 PM

    Could you send me a copy of the article and recipe (without ads) for Johnny Marzetti? Thanks Trish

  • Tisha Russo May 27, 2017, 11:00 AM

    I grew up in Columbus and knew the story of “Jonny Marzzitti” . I lived down the street from the “Ladies Club” near Whetstone park. My husband and in-laws from California thought that I was nuts calling the dish what its supposed to be called. Now I can send them proof! Thank you!
    I bleed Scarlett and Grey…

    • Courtney June 6, 2017, 2:17 PM

      You tell your friends you’ve got the right name! 🙂 I love hearing from fellow Ohioans! O-H!

  • kara January 27, 2018, 7:12 PM

    If I could give 5 stars I would!

    I made it exactly the same except I did 1 pound of Italian saussage and 1 pound Hamburger meat.

    Everyone loved it. My son said “This is a really good dinner.” My picky toddler ate it! And my husband had no complaints. It’ll be in our Fall and Winter rotation for meals
    I’ve been wanting it since I heard about it on Gilmore Girls.

    • Courtney January 31, 2018, 11:51 AM

      Awesome!! I love hearing that. I know what a challenge it can be to find something the whole family will eat. So glad you have a new recipe to add to your rotation!

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