If you have heard of Johnny Marzetti Casserole, you are definitely from the Midwestern USA.
If you haven’t heard of it, don’t feel bad as I didn’t have a clue what it was (or that it even existed) until I randomly stumbled up it a couple of weeks ago. My attention was immediately drawn to the title : Johnny Marzetti? Made a casserole? Who’s he?
The Johnny Marzetti casserole originated at the Italian restaurant Marzetti’s in Columbus, Ohio. The restaurant was established in 1896, but the real local fame came when Teresa Marzetti served up this baked casserole that she named after her brother-in-law Johnny. It was cheap, cheerful and Marzetti’s happened to be right by Ohio State University – full of students looking for cheap, good eats. It soon became famous all over Ohio and the Midwest.
This dish is still popular with home cooks today and for good reason. It’s easy, it’s delicious and yes, it’s cheap and cheerful. I love a good ground beef casserole and the Johnny Marzetti casserole has become one of my new favourites.
On a side note, Marzetti’s restaurant is now closed ( has been since 1972) but the name lived on with a line of salad dressings in the States! Who knew?
You have two options to make this casserole, in the oven or in the slow cooker. The slow cooker of course is messier, you will end up with a plate like the one shown above instead of the nicer squares shown below. You also have to make sure that you don’t overcook the noodles in the slow cooker as well, as a lot of slow cookers ‘low” setting is a pretty hot temperature.
I feel like the slow cooker version is good for setting right before you head to church on Sundays. If you make sure to cook your noodles to a firm al dente, you won’t have a problem leaving it for two hours to slowly come together and warm up. It does have to do with knowing your slow cooker; mine runs hot so I would cook mine for 1 1/2 hours and then leave it to stay on “keep warm” until we got home. That is perfect.
You can also prepare it and leave it in the fridge, until an hour before you want to eat or even overnight. I’ve read that leaving it overnight really gets the flavours melding together even better.
So, who here has heard of the Johnny Marzetti casserole before – and if so, where are you from?
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- 2 cups dry rotini pasta
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound bulk mild Italian sausage
- 3/4 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 lb white mushrooms washed and chopped
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 15-16 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 15-16 ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
- 1 1/2 cups shredded old Cheddar cheese
If making in the oven, preheat your oven to 350 °F.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions to a firm al dente. Remember, you are cooking it even further in the oven or crockpot, you don't want mush.
Fry the ground beef and Italian sausage in a large skillet until browned. Mix in the onion and mushrooms and cook until soft. Add in the garlic, saute for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the Italian seasoning, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Simmer briefly, then set aside and cool for 10 minutes.
Grease or spray the casserole dish or the inside of the slow cooker. Spread a little bit of the sauce on the bottom of the dish/slow cooker, then top with the pasta.
Sprinkle the Italian blend cheese over the pasta, then pour the remaining sauce over the casserole.
Cover and cook in the oven for 45 minutes or in the slow cooker on low for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. When ready, uncover, sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top and then cover again until melted.
Serve and enjoy!
If you have a slow cooker where "low' is super hot, cut the time to 1 1/2 hours. The slow cooker method is great for when you don't want to use the oven but it's not an all day recipe.