It’s the season for sharing, and this Johnny Marzetti recipe is a simple, satisfying cheesy ground beef casserole that can feed a crowd!
If you love classic Midwestern ground beef casseroles, you might also want to try our Ground Beef and Potatoes Skillet, Company Casserole, and Green Bean Tater Tot Casserole.
Easy Ground Beef Casserole for 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 casserole 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.
Johnny Marzetti: A Midwestern Favorite
This casserole was literally crafted for sharing. According to the Ohio History Central, 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 broke and hungry 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 Johnny Marzetti 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 for decades. In Ohio, Johnny Marzetti remains a common household name, and still serves as a hearty and satisfying meal.
How to Make Johnny Marzetti
While there are many different variations of Johnny Marzetti, I like to keep mine simple, just like the original.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees then bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pound of macaroni noodles and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In the meantime, you can make the ground beef filling. Start by sauteing green pepper, mushrooms, and onions in a bit of olive oil. Add in ground beef and continue to cook until it’s browned. Drain off any excess grease, then add diced tomatoes and sauce along with salt, pepper, oregano, Italian herbs, garlic, and a bit of sugar.
- Stir in the noodles and a blend of cheddar and Italian cheeses then transfer the beef mixture to a 9 x 13 inch pan. Add more cheese to the top until the whole thing is melty, browned, and bubbly.
Substitutions and Notes for Ground Beef Casserole
This Johnny Marzetti recipe makes 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.
Here are a few common substitutions:
- If you’re short on time, or just don’t like them, feel free to skip the sauteed mushrooms and peppers.
- You can substitute one pound of Italian sausage in the ground beef mixture for a little extra kick.
- Different kinds of pasta can be used, but they will need to cook slightly longer than the macaroni.
What to Serve with Johnny Marzetti
This is a really nice comfort food to take to new moms or grieving families.
Add some cheesy homemade garlic bread and an Easy Garden Salad and you have a complete meal.
We also like pairing this with Garlic Green Beans, That Good Salad, or Cucumber Tomato Salad.
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.
For more information about Johnny Marzetti, check out this story from Canton Rep.
I grew up in Columbus Ohio in the 60s and my mother made Johnny Marzetti frequently. I made this recipe the other night and it turned out amazing. I added a little cream cheese and substituted a half pound of hot breakfast sausage. Other than that went by the recipe. Best one I’ve ever made.
Finally found it. I use to love when it was Johnny Marzzeti day at school. This winter I started thinking about how much I use to look forward to having Marzzeti. Tried a couple of recipes and they were terrible an wound up in the garbage. Then I found this recipe. Oh my goodness, this is exactly the way I remember it. I had two big helpings last night and two helpings this morning. I normally am not a big eater but this just so satisfied my craving. The rest of family enjoyed as well. Looking forward to having it again tonight.I did use half Italian sausage. I definitely will be making again.
I’m so glad it reminded you of the recipe you had as a child and satisfied that craving! Thanks for coming back to let me know!
Easy to make and a big hit with our church youth group. Thank you!
So glad to hear it! Thanks for sharing!
I’m 86 and grew up in Columbus and love Johnny Marzetti. My mother made her own noodles and later on added kidney beans to stretch the dish and added slices of Velveta cheese through the dish and put a little milk in before going into the oven and it made a wonderful sauce. Wishshe could make it for me now I love it and so did my two boys when I made it for them. Thank you for putting the receipt out there, lovedtheir restaurant
I grew up in a small town in Western PA and mom made it frequently. We all loved it and at age72 I’m still making it. As others have said we just called it Marzetti. I am a single household and will have to make a smaller version, no room in the freezer. What memory!
Born in Columbus, I grew up in Tallmadge (yes, I can pronounce Cuyahoga – kai-ah-hoe-gah) and loved having Johnny Marzetti in the 1970s and ’80s as a staple growing up. We loved it even without the onions (though now I appreciate them a lot more). I’ve been missing this dish for far too long now. I’ve gotta make it tonight.
I made this tonight for the first time in a long time. Can you freeze it? I didn’t realize how big of a batch it made. Basically 2 9 by 13 inch pans. I cooked one but not the other yet.
Yes! You don’t need to bake the other one before freezing. Just wrap tightly with saran wrap and freeze. You can bake it from frozen. I would keep it covered for the first 25 minutes or so, and then uncover for another 15-20.
I’m a fellow Ohioan, born in Cuyahoga Falls, lived in Canton, and moved to Bexley when I was 10. My mom was from Navarre and my dad from Grove City. My mom made this in a skillet on the stove top but she used egg noodles instead of macaroni and added kidney beans. She would add cheese if she had it, but with 5 kids, she didn’t always have it. This is what I grew up calling Johnny Marzetti. Reading the history and recipe makes me homesick. Texas is far, far away from my old stomping grounds.
Lived in Gahanna on the edge of the Port Columbus Air Field as dad was a navy pilot. The cooks at Gahanna Lincoln HS served this regularly in the cafeteria and always reminds me if the good times and friendly Ohioans in the fifties. I replicated it as a bride but have also added a cup of frozen corn and a can of red beans. So good and satisfying. I’m 80 years now and still make it for my husband of 60 yrs. He’s a Miami native and I’m a Californian!
I also grew up in central Ohio and we had Johnny Marzetti. My mom always told me that if macaroni noodles were used that it was Johnny Marzetti and if you used noodles it was Jean Marzetti. I can’t say if that came from the restaurant or just her version but the names stick with me yet today.
First the Fat Boys break up and now this. There just ain’t nothin to believe in anymore smh. >https://www.columbusmonthly.com/lifestyle/20180130/disappearance-of-johnny-marzetti
Columbus born, bred and lifetime Johnny Marzetti lover. I never knew, but was always curious of the origin of JM and I FINALLY found it! Or not LOL.
No matter the origin, this was and is a ‘Bus town signature dish and your recipe is bout the best, closest to my childhood memory version, with just a couple revisions.
For those veg-curious omnivores like myself, I wanted to try a meatless, gluten free version, being that it’s just a few ingredients away already.
Basically just subbed Barilla Gluten Free pasta (I’m bout that Rotini life) and Beyond Meat (I used the burgers but I imagine the “beef” or maybe other versions are worthy too).
So glad to hear this recipe lived up to expectations! It can be tough to recreate those childhood memories, but I hope to do this C-bus classic justice! Great to hear it works with GF pasta and Beyond Meat too! I’ll have to try that!
My mother made this for me when I was a little girl. 65 years later and I’m still making yet. Going to make it for Easter Sunday as a fill in for teen age boys. Love this recipe
I live near Columbus, Ohio and grew-up on Johnny Marzetti. My mother made it with tomato paste instead of tomatoes, no mushrooms (because of picky eaters) and sprinkled the top with parmesan instead of cheddar. I still make it in my 70’s!! Clueless bad cooks from the East coast called it ‘goulash’ – NO WAY!!!!
Parmesan on top sounds wonderful! Might have to switch it up next time I make it!
Could I switch the ground beef with ground pork?
I know this dish is delicious already. It’s been in my family for generation after generation after generation. Only our family calls it Mulligan stew. And yep. the mire cheese the better. spicy or mild. and if you’re out of cheese, so what! You just add more the next time to make up for it. and always make a ton of it csuse everyone knows the stuff is better the next day. Thanks for sharing my great great great great great…grandparents recipe. 💜💜😊
I’ve never heard it called Mulligan Stew! Thanks for sharing! I love seeing how recipes are passed down through generations.
I followed this recipe Except I did use 1lb of sweet Italian sausage and 1lb of ground round. It was really really great! It makes enough for 8-10 people to feast on! Thanks for sharing this recipe!
I’m so glad you enjoyed the Johnny Marzetti! Thanks for coming back to let me know!
Hi! I’m from Columbus! I’ve always heard the story of Johnny Marzetti. I still buy the dressings sometimes. I just baked this recipe, but made a slight change. I used 2 jars of marinara and 1 can of diced tomatoes because I like my pasta a little more wet! It was delicious! Great recipe!
Hi from Canal Winchester, a SE suburb of Columbus! I happened upon your site via a bunny trial beginning with a pear bread recipe. Go figure! My husband & I grew up in Ohio, moved away for a bit, but always wanted to get back to enjoy the change of seasons. I did not know the story about the Marzetti family but loved reading it. I can’t wait to try this recipe that I’m sure will take us back to our childhoods. We built our house with a large kitchen that has room for our tables that seat 18 comfortably (22 if we cozy up). We host a monthly men’s prayer breakfast for the men of our church but would love to have other groups over as well and Johnny Marzetti would be perfect! Thanks!
Hi Linda! I always love connecting with other Ohioans! I’m so glad you happened upon the site! I hope this dish is a welcome addition to your gatherings. I wish I could see your table filled up with 20 people! That sounds absolutely wonderful!
July 15, 2019 I, too, grew up in OH and attended OSU. My husband said to me yesterday, we haven’t had John Marzetti for a while. It was a standard entree in our household for many years. I had to go online to refresh my memory for all the ingredients before grocery shopping. We always called it John Marzetti and my mother and I make it in a skillet and folded in the cheese, not as a baked casserole. Going to convert to baked casserole after reading the recipe, and add the mushrooms. This was our first exposure to “Italian” style foods back in the 40s and 50s. Both of our Mothers made it in a skillet with no garlic for a bland midwestern fare.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I love hearing about the various origins of this dish. I hope you enjoy the baked version! We love the cheesy top and definitely love the garilc! 🙂
Just signed up for your VIP list. I am a Buckeye also but have lived in NC for most of my life. Did go to OSU (to answer you
…IO) and Wright State University the first year it opened (1964). Yes, I am an OLDY. Am from Fairborn, Ohio, next to Dayton
and Wright Patterson AFB. Love your recipes. Found you when looking up a recipe my mother used to make all the time for me….I always called it Johnny Margetti instead of Marzetti. Recipe is the same as my mom’s. Delicious. Anyway looking forward to viewing more of your recipes. Being old and not a great IT person, I don’t do Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Hi Paul, Thanks so much for joining the community! Your comment made by day. I love hearing how people found the blog and meeting fellow Ohioans. I hope you find many more old favorites and new favorites to love!
My mother used to make this when I was a kid in Pennsylvania. I’m 86 years old, so you know how old the recipe she used was. She just called it marzetti, no Johnny. I don’t think she used canned soups, they weren’t so common back then, probably just tomatoes she canned herself. Maybe some ketchup to flavor it up a little.
Delicious recipe! I have eaten it many times but never made it until now. I am adding 2 tbsp. of chopped garlic as well as substituting cored and seeded jalapenos for the bell peppers to add a different twist. Smells delish…hopefully will taste as good.
This recipe has been around for eons, one of the greatest things is you can easily substitute items you don’t have or like and it will still be great. When I make it I set aside half to freeze and only add macaroni to the half we’ll be eating, it gets too smushy when frozen. I par-boil more while re-heating the rest.
Johnny Marzetti was the favorite at my high school in the sixties. I use chili powder, Green chilies and celery. I don’t use onion or mushrooms. My family now just refers to our favorite as “Johnny”.
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.
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!
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…
You tell your friends you’ve got the right name! 🙂 I love hearing from fellow Ohioans! O-H!
Could you send me a copy of the article and recipe (without ads) for Johnny Marzetti? Thanks Trish
Hahaha! I don’t know how I missed that one!
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.
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.
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. 🙂
My Big ma made this on the top of the stove like spaghetti.it was10 to 15 to feed. I love this ,but I added summer squash and zucchini, omit the meat .serve with knotted 9 minuet heat and eat rolls ,a small salad glass of wine and a oh oh oh my👌🏼❤️😘
I had never heard of this dish before but you can bet I will never forget it! It looks so comforting and delicious!!
That’s the truth Cindy!
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.
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!
At last, my “what is Johnny Marzetti” curiosity is quenched! I’ll be making this good lookin’ casserole.
Interesting story about the Marzetti family. This pasta casserole looks amazing!
Thank you! I was excited to read up on the history of this dish too.
Ooh, I can totally get down with this casserole! So good!
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!
This reminds me of something my grandma used to make, so it is totally evoking childhood comfort food memories for me.
That’s awesome. I love nostalgic foods. 🙂
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!
I like to see how it’s spread throughout the U.S. I think some folks call it goulash or just macaroni casserole.
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.
Oh, you’re definitely invited. You didn’t think we were going to eat all of this ourselves, did you?
Casseroles are the best for big crowds, this is definite comfort food!!
I have been dying to see this recipe since you posted the title — let me tell you, it does not disappoint!!
Thanks Isabel! I was excited to update one of our favorites!
Wow! Your dish looks just amazing! Perfect for a Sunday dinner!
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.
I am the same way! Always overthinking. But it really doesn’t have to be so difficult!
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!
Oh, yeah, my whole family would love this! Plus it’s a great recipe to make for friends who need comfort!
What a great story and casserole. I love the simplicity of it and all the comfort that goes with it too.