If you have heard of Johnny Marzetti Casserole, a delicious ground beef recipe, 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 while looking for a good ground beef recipe. My attention was immediately drawn to the title : Johnny Marzetti? Made a casserole? Who’s he? I knew that I loved my Sour Cream Ground Beef Noodle Casserole, and this recipe also using ground beef in a casserole seemed similar, so I HAD to explore this recipe!
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.
A Simple & Easy Ground Beef Casserole
This ground beef recipe is still popular with home cooks today and for good reason. It’s easy, it’s delicious and yes, it’s cheap (ground beef is always cheap!) and cheerful. I love a good ground beef recipe 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.
Side Dishes to Serve with this Casserole
I suggest a nice lighter Homemade coleslaw recipe or my Tex-Mex Corn Salad for some extra zip. You also can’t go wrong with a Dill Cucumber and Tomato Salad or Mexican Coleslaw. What you need is to keep any side dishes light AND full of vegetables, so a salad is the perfect thing. Even a simple green salad will do the trick. This is a heavy pasta casserole so you want to make sure to balance out the meal.
More Great Ground Beef Recipes:
- Simple Classic Hamburger Soup
- One Pot Rich & Creamy Ground Beef Stroganoff and Noodles
- Beef & Tomato Macaroni Soup
- Homemade Cheesy Chili Mac Skillet
- Creamy Potato Hamburger Soup
You can also prepare this casserole 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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Johnny Marzetti Casserole - Slow Cooker or Oven!
- Prep Time
- 20 minutes
- Cook Time
- 1 hour
- Total Time
- 1 hour 20 minutes
- Main Course
- Slow Cooker / Crockpot
- Karlynn Johnston
- 2 cups dry rotini pasta
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound bulk mild Italian sausage
- 3/4 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 pound white mushrooms washed and chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon 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 a 9x13 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!
All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.
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Comments & Recipe Tips Share a tip or comment!
In my house of 6, we LOVE a good Johnny Marzetti casserole…but this ?? Using tomato soup instead of ALL diced canned tomatoes?… maybe it’s convenient, but it takes this well-loved dish into Chef-Boy-AR-Dee Land!!! The flavor profile is way off and nasty. We did not enjoy this at all!
Theresa M Burke says
Can this casserole be frozen? Cooked or uncooked first?
Bob G says
I am from the Midwest and we grew up with this dish. When my mom made it she put crumbled potato chips over the top. I also do the same thing. Good memories!
Irene alex says
One of my favorite meals. Went to a potluck 30 yrs ago and acquired the recipe. Never met anyone here in Micigan hat everheard of it. Thisyear was the first time someone hashad it and also loved it, dhe saidhey would get it in the school cafeteria. It sounds right becaue she is originally from Ohio
Old cheddar cheese?
Mr. Kitchen Magpie says
Yes you can use old or medium
bob n says
Have made this a number of times now, and it’s outstanding. I’ve followed the recipe exactly one time. Other times I’ve played with it a bit and changed some of the ingredients , like adding Taco Seasoning (my homemade blend), adding corn, or a touch of cayenne. Have also substituted the tomato sauce with Marinara and used different cheese. Each time it comes out very slightly different, but still has the same basic flavor and is delicious. A very versatile recipe that allows you to use some imagination and still retains it’s roots for flavor and consistency.
Andrea Medeiros says
The recipe I used from Cooking Professionally called for 4 cups uncooked macaroni with 1 1/4 cup water and cooking the dish for 45 minutes. Let’s just say macaroni could’ve broken teeth. How can I make it better next time??
You’re supposed to cook the macaroni beforehand. I cook it separately, then add to the cooked Marzetti before serving. That way it doesn’t turn to mush from being cooked too long.
I didn’t have it growing up but when I was married while living in Connecticut my husband’s mother would frequently make it for us and our two little boys. Everyone loved Nanny’s Johnny Marzetti and I had never gotten her recipe. I’m so delighted to have it now. Thank you most kindly!!
Tom Cover says
Gre’ up in Ohio. It was a winter staple at home and at school in the 50’s.
Linda L Svoboda says
I make this on the stove top. Takes a little longer but only have 1 pot to wash. Also, I use V-8 juice instead of tomato sauce for more flavor.
Old cheese is usually labeled as “aged”. Good recipe!
K MCMICHAEL says
This was delicious! I doubled the ground beef though and added some nutmeg, oregano, and Sason Tropical seasoning. Everybody loved it!
not very flavorful desite 3 times italian seasoning and fresh basil
I’m from Newark Ohio, just east of Columbus and I grew up on Johnny Marzetti! It was served at school on a regular basis.