Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Johnny Marzetti

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)
Printable Recipe

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.

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....

In the end, the hubby loved my version. He said it tasted just like he remembered it. For me, it was successful, because it didn't taste like I remembered it. :D How do you make yours? And just what do you call it?


  1. Oh, I agree the spicy green chili version is a nice kick. Congrats to you to be chosen for the Taste of NFL, how cool is that. That should be very exciting. By the way I love this dish and the veggie crumbles. Looking forward to your NFL post. Happy Days!

    1. Thanks, Suzi! I can't wait to try the green chile one...the more spice, the better... :)

  2. johnny who? that's be my reaction too. i've definitely heard of american chop suey, though--it's a food from my childhood that i remember fondly that i haven't had for years! thanks for bringing it back, cathy. :)

    1. I know, right? Who names food with people names? Kind of cannibalistic when you think about it, lol.

    2. My uncle was a Marzetti. He gave the recipe to my mother this was in the 40's and 50's. Hers was very simple, elboe macaroni, tomatoes, hamburg and cheese. I fed my kids a lot of this very simple but hardy dish. This was in Columbus Ohio.
      Joan Kiner-Wolf

    3. Ah, Joan--I apologize for the insensitive remark. I usually find some way to stick my foot in my mouth. Johnny Marzetti is such a wonderful memory for my husband (he grew up near Columbus, and went to school with a Marzetti). It really turned out to be a tasty dish for me, too. Kudos to your uncle. :)

  3. Never heard of Johnny, but I recognize yummy food that my family will love! Great recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  4. This is comfort food at it's best and Congrats on being chosen to attend the Taste of the NFL. Looking forward to your posts about it.

    1. Thanks,Sandra---I'm sure I'll come back with all sorts of tomato ideas for more comfort food. :D

  5. Peg Bracken has a recipe for this in her
    "I hate to cook" book. Terrific book, FYI.

  6. Hi Cathy, another great recipe. I never knew 'hot dish casserole' had a name, but now I do. I can't wait to make a Johnny Marzetti very soon!

  7. CONGRATS on the win!!! Looking forward to meeting you soon.

  8. My mother made this a lot as I was a child and a young adult still at home. Hamburger, sweet onion, macaroni, tomato soup was her recipe with a little salt and papper. When I was married in early 1970 I began adding some green pepper, a little oregano, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Later some celery or celery seed and cheese. Recipes evolve, but memories are some of the most lasting things I know. Always comforting to recall this dish and mom and I at our little table in a one room apartment in Columbus, Ohio. Love and prayer always accompanied each meal.

  9. Not sure how I missed this first time around. I had this as a child in the school cafeteria a lot. I always liked it, I had found a recipe somewhere, tried it and thought how did I like this? I will have to try your recipe, it sounds very good to me.