Johnny Marzetti

published Oct 30, 2021
Johnny Marzetti Recipe

This extra-cheesy casserole only calls for a handful of ingredients.

Serves 6 to 8

Prep10 minutes

Cook40 minutes to 50 minutes

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Johnny Marzetti (a classic casserole made with pasta, ground beef, and vegetables in a cheesy tomato sauce) on a plate with a salad on the side.
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni

The first time I was introduced to Johnny Marzetti was a few years back, after my mom stumbled across a recipe titled “Johnny M” in an old Iowa church cookbook from 1957. It was made with ground pork and used a can of condensed tomato soup to create the sauce.

I updated this version to use Italian sausage and swapped tomato sauce for the condensed soup. You really can’t go wrong with a classic American comfort food dish like this. It’s a warm, cheesy, stick-to-your-ribs dinner that feels like something your grandma used to make

Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni

What Is Johnny Marzetti?

A Johnny Marzetti is an iconic American casserole, or hot dish. It has become a staple of potluck dinners, school cafeterias, and church socials. While many different versions exist, it is typically made with ground beef or Italian sausage, onions, cheese, tomato sauce, and noodles. The name of the casserole might vary slightly from cookbook to cookbook or in different parts of the country. Sometimes it is called a “Johnny Mazetti,” leaving out the “R.” This spelling was typical in the Panama Canal Zone where the casserole was served in U.S. Army commissaries. In this region they usually added olives to the dish.

The Origin of Johnny Marzetti

The Johnny Marzetti casserole originated in Columbus, Ohio, in 1896 when Teresa Marzetti, Johnny’s sister-in-law, created the dish. It quickly became a huge hit with customers at their family’s namesake restaurant, as well as with students from the nearby Ohio State University.

By the 1920s, the casserole had become very popular across Ohio and the Midwest, then spread across the country. The original restaurant closed in 1942, but a second location remained in operation until Teresa’s death in 1972. The Marzettis later became known for salad dressings, which are still produced today and can be found in the refrigerated sections in the produce areas of grocery stores under the label T. Marzetti.

Can I Substitute Ground Beef for Ground Turkey?

The meat used in this dish can vary from recipe to recipe and substitutions can be made according to your personal preferences. Here I used bulk Italian sausage. Ground beef or ground pork can also be used. You can also substitute ground turkey.

Johnny Marzetti Recipe

This extra-cheesy casserole only calls for a handful of ingredients.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes to 50 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray

  • 1

    (12-ounce) bag dried egg noodles

  • 1

    green bell pepper

  • 1/2

    medium yellow onion

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 pound

    mild Italian sausage, removed from casings

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 8 ounces

    cheddar cheese

  • 1

    (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 1/4 cup

    water

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 12 ounces dried egg noodles and cook according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

  2. Meanwhile, chop 1 green bell pepper. Chop 1/2 medium yellow onion.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 pound Italian sausage and cook, breaking the meat up into pieces, until the pink starts to disappear, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chopped bell pepper, the onion, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. While the sausage mixture cooks, shred the cheese.

  4. Shred 8 ounces cheddar cheese (about 2 cups) on the large holes of a box grater.

  5. Add 1 can tomato sauce and 1/4 cup water to the sausage mixture and stir to combine. Cook until bubbly and heated through, about 2 minutes.

  6. Remove from heat and stir in the cooked noodles and 1 cup of the shredded cheddar cheese. Stir to coat the noodles. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

  7. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly on the edges, about 25 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.