foods and cuisines

Johnny Marzetti | The food that will make you feel like a real Midwesterner

Johnny Marzetti

Johnny Marzetti is an American pasta dish in the cuisine of the Midwestern United States prepared with noodles, cheese, ground beef or Italian sausage, and a tomato sauce that may include aromatic vegetables and mushrooms.

In 1896, Teresa Marzetti, an immigrant from Italy, arrived in the United States according to Ohio History Central. The same year, she opened a restaurant. Before opening the restaurant, she wrote “We will start a new place and serve good food. At a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but we will serve good food.” One of her popular dishes came to be known as Johnny Marzetti, named after her brother-in-law. While it’s unclear when she first started offering the dish, it became popular in the 1920s.

Johnny Marzetti Ingredients

  • 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


  • Wide pot
  • Large pot
  • Colander
  • 9×13 Baking Dish

Johnny Marzetti Instructions

  • 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

Why do they call it Johnny Marzetti?

As the story goes, Johnny Marzetti, named after Teresa’s brother-in-law, was a hearty dish created to satisfy hungry students on a budget and was sold for 45 cents. The popular dish became a hit in Ohio, spreading throughout the Midwest and eventually making its way onto public school cafeteria menus.
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