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