Johnny Marzetti Casserole – (Ground Beef Casserole Recipe)

4.93 from 216 votes
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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. I didn’t have a clue what it was (or that it even existed) until I randomly stumbled upon it a couple of weeks ago while looking for a good ground beef recipe. My attention was immediately drawn to the title: Johnny Marzetti? Did he make a casserole? Who’s he?

close up serving of Johnny Marzetti Casserole (Ground Beef Recipe) in a white plate
Johnny Marzetti Casserole (Ground Beef Recipe)

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 it!

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 and cheerful, and Marzetti’s happened to be right by Ohio State University—full of students looking for inexpensive, good food. 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, delicious, and, yes, 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 favorites.

On a side note, Marzetti’s restaurant is now closed (it has been since 1972), but the name lived on with a line of salad dressings in the States! Who knew?

You have two options for making 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 a lot of slow cookers ‘low setting is a pretty hot temperature.

close up serving of Johnny Marzetti Casserole in a white plate
Johnny Marzetti Casserole

I feel like the slow cooker version is suitable 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 them for two hours to come together and warm up slowly.

It does have to do with knowing your slow cooker; mine runs hot, so I cook mine for 1 1/2 hours and then leave it to stay on “keep warm” until we get home. That is perfect.

Side Dishes to Serve with this Casserole

I suggest a nice light 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. You need 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.

close up serving of Johnny Marzetti Casserole in a white plate
Johnny Marzetti Casserole

More Great Ground Beef Recipes:

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 flavors melding together even better.

So, who here has heard of the Johnny Marzetti casserole before – and if so, where are you from?

Happy cooking!



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Johnny Marzetti Casserole – Slow Cooker or Oven!

Johnny Marzetti Casserole – the classic Midwest dish that is the perfect comfort food! This is a fabulous ground beef recipe.
4.93 from 216 votes
close up serving of Johnny Marzetti Casserole in a white plate
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 9×13 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!

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

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. As with almost all ground beef recipes that use the slow cooker, you have to cook the ground beef first.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 482kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Cholesterol: 106mg, Sodium: 556mg, Potassium: 420mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 410IU, Vitamin C: 2.6mg, Calcium: 328mg, Iron: 2.3mg

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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Johnny Marzetti Casserole (a delicious ground beef recipe) is a classic Midwest dish that is the perfect comfort food! Recipe from @kitchenmagpie. #recipe #casserole #beef #noodles #cheese #baked #dinner #supper #family #meals

Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

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Reader Interactions

Comments & Recipe Tips Share a tip or comment!

  1. Anna Bomas says

    Grew up in Marion, Ohio – born in the 50s. My father owned a restaurant there, and this was many times on the menu. I would go to the restaurant just to eat this dish. I loved it! I’m just sorry I never asked my father for the recipe. Your recipe excites me, though, because it looks close to what my father served. Thank you!

  2. Brenda says

    This looks good, but the version my MIL gave me 30 years ago is much different, but the recipe name is the same. She made it with hamburger beef bbq, elbow macaroni mixed into the bbq and Velveeta cheese on top. Not sure if it is a PA Dutch way of making it or not.

  3. Kyle says

    This casserole is absolutely delicious! I have made it twice and the leftovers heat up well in the microwave, but I throw a little sauce and more cheese on the top…so good and an easy dinner or lunch. Thanks Karlynn for sharing!!5 stars

  4. Deanne Young says

    Can this be made and frozen and then just heated in the crock pot?

  5. Theresa Titus says

    This brings back soooo many memories. My mom made this for my family wayyy back as I was growing up in St. Louis. (I was born in the 50’s.). Only she made it in a round yellow Pyrex bowel using egg noodles and she used a pot of old English cheddar cheese in the sauce. She layered it with both cheddar and shredded mozzarella, no sausage-only ground beef in the meat sauce, and No mushrooms (couldn’t stand them) lol. She fed our family of 9 for so many family dinners, and even taught my son her Secrets lol. She passed away a few years ago and I still make it in the round Pyrex yellow bowel❤️❤️5 stars

  6. Sally G says

    I have been making this for 50 years. I always use wide noodles. I now use all sausage (Swaggerty’s) add sautéed chopped mushrooms and crushed garlic, then add about 1/2 cup of chopped green olives. Also, I cook the noodles al dente. Make the sauce and cool it slightly, mix in the noodles and 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. I heat individual servings in my countertop oven with a sprinkle of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. On occasion I substitute Asiago cheese.4 stars

  7. Mary says

    What size casserole dish pls. Looked through the page and don’t see. 9×13 inch? Thx

  8. Sheri says

    I grew up in north western PA. Johnny Marzetti was often on the school menu (80’s) So delicious!!!

    • Marie LaFontaine says

      I grew up in Levittown NY. I’m 72 and been eating Johnnie Marzetti since I was about 7 or 8. My Mom’s recipe was a little different It was made with ground beef Sauteed with chopped onions and fresh mushrooms cut in large chunks then she add Campbells condensed Tomato soup I think she used two cans. Next was one pound of Velveeta. Mix altogether until the cheese was melted This mixture was added to one pound of cook medium shells. She had a big white bowl with big black polkadots. The Johnnie Marzetti bowl. Then she poured about a cup of red wine over it. Bake for about 45 minutes and another cup of wine cook another 45 minutes or until crispy around the edges. My favorite dish. I now call grownup Mac And Cheese. I now add crushed fresh garlic to ground beef, and use 32 oz tomato sauce instead soup and also add a pound of cubed Sharp Chedder with the Velveeta.

      • Judy Lamantia says

        OMG, Marie! Your Mom’s recipe is over the top! I would never think of wine in a casserole, much less 2 cups. I have to try her recipe!

  9. Brian McNamee says

    Shoulda put the casserole dish capacity in the Instructions so it’s not an experiment! Loved this stuff ever since the cafeteria at Cristobal Jr & High School in Cristobal, the old Canal Zone 1954 -1957.

  10. Mary S Rollins says

    Mom picked up the recipe in Ft Clayton, Panama Canal Zone in the early 50’s. She used to black sliced olives. Staple for us.4 stars

    • Tom Allmond says

      My grandkids love this meal. Parents and ourselves live it as well. If I am making it for the grandkids I follow the directions exactly. When making it for adults I substitute Hotel for the diced tomatoes and add a teaspoon of crushed red peppers (I lot of zing).5 stars

  11. Mary Lou Huff says

    My mother in law gave me this recipe 44 years ago and the only difference was that she sliced and added a 1/3 cup of black olives to it.4 stars

    • Margaret Banta says

      I don’t have rotini pasta. I have elbow and rigatoni. I’m thinking elbow would probably work best?

  12. James M Dwyer says

    Also have the recipe with additional options you can add for more flavor

  13. James M Dwyer says

    I have heard of Jonny Merzetti. My mother made it quite bit. We lived in Indiana.

    • Ddean says

      So, If the meat and pasta is mixed together the poured into the casserole dish…it is often called Roman Holiday.5 stars

  14. Linda says

    I don’t like mushrooms so I leave that out. I’m from Michigan and mom made this while I was growing up. She also made goulash, not Hungarian goulash the American midwest variety. I like it even better than this casserole.
    I use elbow macaroni, ground beef, fire roasted diced tomatoes, green pepper, onion, a can of tomato soup, a little katchup, a little bottled chili sauce, Worchester sauce, a few hot pepper flakes, salt and pepper. It’s delicious!5 stars

  15. Susan Webber says

    I’m born and raised in Ohio and this was and still is a staple on our dinner table. When i lived in Columbus, I worked close to Marzetti’s and had lunch there often. I make it in the microwave now, cooking the meat (ground beef only) in a colander inside a 2 qt casserole. Drain the grease and leave the meat in the bottom of the dish, top with 4 C. uncooked noodles, 1 can stewed tomatoes, 1 8 oz can tomato sauce, 2 T. dried minced onions and pour 1 C water over all. Cover and microwave on high for 14-16 mins, stirring once halfway thru. Top with shredded cheese, cover and let cheese melt for 5 mins. Stir and serve. Quick and easy!

  16. Nancy says

    I’m from southern Indiana and Mom called this casserole John Mazetti. She made it with wide noodles, ground beef, dried minced onions, canned mushrooms (I now used sliced olives), tomato soup and shredded Veletta. Mixed all together and put in casserole dish.
    Still a family favorite, which I now call Zetti.

  17. Pam says

    I was born in Columbus, Ohio but raised in Cleveland. As a child, for a treat, our family went to Marzetti’s restaurant. My Mom copied Johnny Marzetti recipe as best she could. She made it in a Deep casserole dish and mixed together elbow macaroni, ground beef, onion, can of diced tomatoes, salt and pepper then put chunks of velvet a cheese on top before she popped it in the oven. I still make it to this day for my grandchildren! Yumm!5 stars

    • El Brady says

      My grandparents were originally from Alabama but moved to Ohio years ago. Your Johnny Marzetti recipe sounds very similar to my grandmother’s.
      Strangely enough, my grandma added kidney beans to her J.M. My mother explained that during The Depression it was common practice to stretch a dollar. By adding kidney beans to the dish it would have that extra boost of protein; which we know was very much needed. It’s a tasty and healthy way to feed your family. Interesting to read all the variations.

    • Sheila says

      Pam that is exactly how my mom made it. She put it in our electric skillet and let it simmer on low. She would add in more tomato sauce as it absorbed and that VELVEETA on top!!
      Closest thing our German family got to Italian Food!

  18. Tee Kurelic says

    I wanted to add to my earlier comment after I read the recipe. A lot of what was in that my Mom never used because we couldn’t afford it and believe me it was just as good.
    Basically she just used canned diced tomatoes, onion, ground beef, salt, pepper and noodles with sometimes adding the cheese on top and a small can of tomato sauce. My Mother in law always made it this way, too.
    If I put in slow cooker, I put noodles almost in raw.

  19. Tee Kurelic says

    Born and raised in Columbus and this was a staple back then because it was to die for delicious and cheap to make.
    I still make and is always a favorite.

  20. Shonna says

    This reminds me of when I was a little girl in Columbus Ohio and my mom would make this quite often! Loved it
    then and still do. Brings back good memories of my childhood in Columbus. No longer there but I can still make this!

  21. Connie says

    When I was in junior/high school in the 60’s this was in the cafeteria menu rotation at least once per 2 weeks One of my favorites back then in South Central PA. Thanks for recipe

  22. Connie says

    When I was in junior/high school in the 60’s this was in the cafeteria menu rotation at least once per 2 weeks One of my favorites back then in South Central PA. Thanks for recipe

  23. P K Glenn says

    I grew up in Ohio and lived in Columbus for many years while raising a family. Johnny Marzetti was our go-to meal whenever we had leftover chili. It was simple to make and my family loved it. Here’s how I did it: Prepare 2 cups of macaroni according to package directions (al dente), drain and place in a greased casserole dish, stir in leftover chili, cover top with grated cheese and pop in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes (or until heated through). Voila – add a side salad and dinner is served! This casserole was always a welcome contribution to potluck dinners.

  24. jillianlaw says

    Curious if anyone has tried in the IP to make this?

  25. Skip Pierce says

    Grew up on the south side of Chicago but lived in Columbus Ohio for 8 years so I’m not sure in which place I heard of it.

  26. Dawn says

    I made the slow cooker version for dinner last night. I also subbed in plant protein for the meat and sausage as we’re vegetarian. It was a huge hit with the whole family, especially me because it was so easy to put together.5 stars

  27. Arthur C says

    In Blacksburg Virginia now but I am from Columbus and remember this as a regular meal growing up. I was trying to explain this dish to my wife, she grew up in Va, and am glad to find your recipe on line.
    Thanks for posting it

  28. Norman Worthington says

    I’m in Columbus and just made your recipe. The real test will be my 7yo son tonight.

  29. Holly says

    I’m actually from Columbus. So many people make this, but everyone makes it different. Not really a fan myself. I may try this one though!4 stars

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