I admit it. I was a little leery of this dish. Johnny who? But, the hubby was insistent. Johnny Marzetti is a food from his childhood. Macaroni and ground beef. It sounded like Hotdish to me. I've also heard it called Goulash. Or Hash. Or American Chop Suey. I had to do a little research. Apparently, Johnny really did exist. You've heard of Marzetti salad dressings, no? Well, before the salad dressings, back in the 1920's, there was a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. The owner created this casserole and named it after his brother, Johnny.
A little more research revealed that there are many ways to make Johnny Marzetti. Some use tomato sauce; some, tomato soup. Some use macaroni; some, egg noodles. In the Panama Canal Zone, it's spelled Johnny Mazetti, and it been a popular dish since WWII...but they add green olives to their recipe. With all of these variations, I figured I could get away with just about anything....
Johnny Marzetti (my way)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bag veggie crumbles (or 1 pound lean ground beef)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 can (15oz) tomato sauce
1 can (14.5) diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound rigatoni, cooked al dente
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.; grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
Heat olive oil in a medium sized heavy saucepan. Add garlic, onions and green pepper and saute until softened, about 5 minutes (if using ground beef, omit the olive oil and brown the meat, with the onions and green peppers; drain).Add the veggie crumbles and cook until heated. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and seasonings. Cook until heated through. Mix in the rigatoni.
Place half of the pasta mixture in the casserole dish. Top with half of the shredded cheese. Repeat the layers. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.
I interrupt this blog post to bring an important announcement: I was recently one of 7 bloggers chosen by Red Gold Tomatoes to attend The Taste of the NFL in Indianapolis! The Taste of the NFL is "an annual strolling food and wine event that brings chefs and NFL players representing each NFL team for a night of food, football and fun with proceeds benefiting food banks in NFL cities nationwide...".......Not only that--I'll get to tour the Red Gold facilities and learn about tomatoes from the ground up! I'm beyond excited to be joining 6 other fabulous bloggers...how cool to be able to meet these talented women. Many, many thanks to Red Gold Tomatoes. I'll be sure to take pictures and notes, so that I can share with all of you.
As you can see, I used the Basil, Garlic and Oregano flavored tomatoes for the sauce, this time around. Feel free to experiment and try the other flavors. I'll bet using the spicy green chile version would be good, too.
Don't be shy with the cheese...pile it on!
Doesn't look vegetarian, does it? To be honest, I can't tell the difference between the ground beef and the veggie crumbles....