Tuesday, March 19

Johnny Marzetti Recipe and History

I have been making Johnny Marzetti for years and years.  Recently my son asked if I have all my recipes in our family cookbook. 

On further inspection of my cookbook, (a Scrapbook Cookbook I made), I realized that I have not added recipes I use often and know from memory.  For instance my deviled eggs recipe is missing, simply because I just whip them up.   So for the last couple of weeks I have been trying to add recipes that I know the kids love, but I have neglected to write down. 
One of those happens to be the Johnny Marzetti.  I decided to find out a little history on the creation of such an easy, delicious and well known recipe and was surprised to find out it was created right here in Ohio

Ohioan Teresa Marzetti was the first person to serve the casserole Johnny Marzetti in their family restaurant.
In 1896, Italian immigrant Marzetti arrived in the United States of America.

That same year, Marzetti established an Italian restaurant in ColumbusOhio on Broad Street. That restaurant closed in 1942, but another restaurant owned by the family, which had opened in 1919, remained in operation until 1972, when Teresa Marzetti died.


Before opening the original restaurant, Marzetti 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."
Owners Teresa and Joseph Marzetti sought a simple main course, easy and cheap to make. 
It had to be scalable to feed the masses, the starved college students from Ohio State University just down the street.  One of the dishes that Marzetti offered her customers became known as Johnny Marzetti, which was named after Teresa Marzetti's brother-in-law.
A baked casserole, the dish included ground beef, cheese, tomato sauce, and noodles. It was a sensation at 45 cents.

It is unclear when Marzetti's restaurant first offered the dish, but by the 1920s, it had become popular across Ohio and the Midwest. This was primarily due to the ease of preparation and the tastiness of Johnny Marzetti.



Then the Columbus Public Schools got wind of it and served it in school cafeterias. This made the casserole a staple in schools throughout the state. It remains the No. 1 cafeteria dish fondly remembered and duplicated at home.

Other ingredients and seasonings have been added over the years, to adjust to the taste of different cooks. The dish spread to other parts of the United States when Marzetti released the recipe and variations of it were published in magazines and cookbooks during the mid-20th century. The dish is still served, especially at social gatherings and in school lunchrooms.


Building of the Panama Canal
Although the Marzetti’s restaurant is long gone, her salad dressings continue on with the Marzetti Company, and her signature casserole dish is still popular.Even the U.S. Army grabbed it for battlefield kitchens. Troops in Panama ate so much of it,  it spilled over into the community. 
Locals still call it “Johnny Marzetti” and add olives and Arturo sauce. They also claim it as their national dish.

The Ohio Historical Society has preserved Teresa Marzetti’s original recipe. 
It’s the mother recipe for all the ones that followed. 
Here it is:



THE ORIGINAL JOHNNY MARZETTI  RECIPE

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3⁄4 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 pounds lean ground beef
3 1⁄2 cups tomato sauce
1 1⁄2 pounds cheddar cheese, shredded
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked and drained


Sauté onion in oil until limp, about 3 minutes.
Add mushrooms and fry until juices are released, about 5 minutes.
Add beef and cook, stirring, breaking up clumps, until no longer red.
Remove from heat and mix in tomato sauce and all but 1 cup of cheese.
Transfer to greased 9- by 13-inch baking dish and add macaroni.
Toss gently to mix. Scatter remaining cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, in 350-degree oven until browned and bubbling (35 to 40 minutes). Serves 10 to 12.


My husband Bill told me that when growing up in Wisconsin, his family ate a similar casserole, but his Mother called it Goulash.

Just so you know the difference, Goulash ( Hungarian: gulyás) is a soup or stew of meat, noodles and vegetables (especially potato), seasoned with paprika and other spices. Originating in Hungary, goulash is also a popular meal in many countries including Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and others.
Here is my own version of Johnny Marzetti.  I’m not sure where I originally found the recipe, but I think I got it from the 1976 paperback edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook.  I found a really similar Johnny Marzetti recipe on page 461 called Family Goulash, and with celery added.  I also flipped to page 468, the Hungarian Goulash, and it's more of the soup/stew version.  Since I have been making it since the late 1970’s to early 1980’s I pretty sure this cookbook is where I first found the recipe.  I can tell you I nearly cooked the cover off that paperback, being a young wife and mother. 

Elizabeth’s Johnny Marzetti

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup chopped celery
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce (more if desired)
2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, (or 1 diced, one stewed) drain a little
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon chopped oregano
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Pinch of sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
2 - 8 oz packages of grated cheddar, Italian or mozzarella cheese
About 3 cups dried or 12 ozs of macaroni noodles




Cook noodles; drain and set aside.

In a large skillet cook ground beef until mostly brown.  Add onion, garlic and celery;
Cook until meat is done and vegetables are tender. Drain off grease.  Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and seasonings. Simmer about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.



In a large bowl mix cooked noodles with meat mixture. Mix in 1 to 1 ½ packages of cheese.  I use both shredded cheddar and mozzarella mixed together.  And don’t be afraid to add more cheese, if like me, you love cheese!



Use butter to grease a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish.  Spread the meat noodle mixture into the casserole dish and then sprinkle the top with remaining cheese.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbling.

PRINT THIS RECIPE

Serve with a tossed salad and garlic bread.


My neighbor just had a baby and this is the casserole dish I took over.  It is a great comfort food, easy to double and perfect for parties, BBQ's, church suppers and potlucks.
Enjoy,

98 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic story Liz! I think I originally got my receipe out of a Ohio cookbook Mom had years ago when I was first married. I make it almost exactly like this, except I love red and green
mild peppers in just about everything I cook, so I have always added those. Just like Chili..the peppers, onions garlic and clelery
are unbeatable together for flavor! I also Love love love spices in everything, so I always use
lots and sprinkle Fresh Basil on top when serving! This makes me want to make some already! My kids have always loved corn bread and green beans with this meal! Hugs Julie

Elizabeth said...

Julie:
I agree, this recipe seems to bring back good memories, but a good comfort food dish does that!
I hadn't made this in a few years so it was wonderful to mix it up again, and even better to enjoy with the kids.
I'm not sure when I started adding celery but I can't remember ever making it without it. Peppers sound fantasic, will have to give that a try also!
Elizabeth

jean said...

my mom made similiar dish growin gup in upstate New York.. ( Adirondacks) but called it goulash also....

Elizabeth said...

Jean, isn't it amazing that a recipe can be so well known, and last through out the years! (Even with different names, lol)
I love that about many recipes, they survive fads and trends and just are.

Anonymous said...

For goodness sakes. I grew up in Columbus Ohio but have lived the last 40 years in New Zealand. I've made a version of Johnny Marzetti from my mother's recipe for years here and everyone goes nuts over it. But, mine is the cheap version. A kilogram of fatty ground beef, 2 large onions chopped, salt to taste...and brown that off. Then add 4 cans of what was known as Franco American Spaghetti in my youth (called tinned spaghetti in New Zealand) and add a half bottle or so of Heinz Ketchup, 2 tablespoons or so of Worcestershire sauce, and some habanero sauce to taste if you like it hot. Served with a shaker of Parmesan Cheese. It's one of those "never fail" meals, kids love it, and it can be adjusted for all tastes...mild to blow your socks off hot.

Anonymous said...

Made Johnny Marzzeti last nite ! Lots of onions red peppers tomatoes, beef, garlic, cheeses: cheddar and romano...herbs....OMG... so so good...had garlic bread an salad Too!
Julie

Anonymous said...

I have made the cheaper version a time or two myself, it's still good. Haven't tried with the Franco can spaghetti but sounds like an easy dish to make while camping! Thanks for the idea.
Sue

Anonymous said...

Yes, people from the former Canal Zone in Panama all know and love this comfort food favorite. You are right, we add olives (with the juice) and arturo sauce. We also dropped the R somewhere along the way and call it Johnny Mazetti. My husband and his friend even wrote a Calypso Tune in honor of this wonderful dish. Thanks for sharing the history.

Elizabeth said...

I was surprised to discover the Panama Canal connections while researching this recipe. I really like olives, have put them in cheesy potatoes, on pizza, on garlic cheesy bread. So am now curious to try them in this recipe! I would love to hear the Calypso tune honoring this dish, bet it is fun! Thanks everyone for stopping by.

Donna Black-Sword said...

Just one of those whims. In the middle of our Ohio winter, I was in the mood for some comfort food and Johnny Marzetti popped into my head. Found your awesome blog after a Google recipe search.

We have one of those small family restaurants in a nearby burgh; it's operated by a German Baptist family so you know they offer up great food. They had this on their menu as a special one lunchtime, but called it goulash. We asked about it and they said it was the same as Johnny Marzetti. And yeah, it was pretty darn good. One of those times when you wish you could ask for seconds in a restaurant.

I made this last night for the family. Added sauteed fresh mushrooms and a little green pepper. For the diced tomatoes, I bought Red Gold brand with the green chilis. On this snowed-in evening, this was exactly the perfect meal.

And I'm following you on Pinterest now. Keep up the great Ohio stuff!

Elizabeth said...

Donna, so glad you found and made the recipe. And hello fellow Ohioian: O-H
This recipe has the same effect on me, creeping up on me and causing a desire to make it. Cold winter months is indeed the best time for our family to mix together this casserole. And I love that it can be made with many simple ingredients most of us have in our pantries.
Hope you're staying warm in this Alaskan like Ohio winter,
Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

the background pictures makes this impossible to read.........................

Elizabeth said...

I’m so sorry you’re having trouble viewing my blog!
If the Internet Explorer can not read or recognize the webpage, try clicking the Compatibility View button on the Address bar. That should do it.
Elizabeth

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christi said...

I-O
Couldn't leave that hanging out there.

Elizabeth said...

Christi: : )

Anonymous said...

I am 63 years old and i grew up in Gypum, Ohio on Lake Erie. I had a wonderfull time growing up there. I had Johnny Marzzetti at my elementry school there and always went back for more. I like to cook i am soooo glad i found this recipe Thank You for giving me some of my yesterday.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Well I just have to give out a big Thank You to all of you who have viewed this post. As of March 2014 there have been over 12,000 (twelve thousand!) views on just this single post alone! Thanks everyone!

Stacy Y said...

Thank you for a basic recipe! I just added what I know my family would love....like green peppers, mushrooms, and fresh garlic. I added a can of basic sauce since I was feeling lazy. I usually have a quick recipe for my own sauce which I totally prefer over store bought. Thank you again!! :)

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Stacy: Yes I too add the garlic, we love garlic! And my sister adds the green bell peppers to hers and says she loves it that way. I'm going to give it a try next batch I make. We also add mushrooms to quite a few dishes so that is on my list! Thanks for the suggestions,
Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

I was so happy to find this recipe again. It sounds like the one I made when my husband and I were starving graduate students. I used egg noodles, though. Hubs kept insisting he didn't like elbow macaroni even after I pointed out that pasta was pasta.

Anonymous said...

I first heard of Johnny Marzetti when I saw it as a regular staple on the Ohio University cafeteria menu. About halfway through my freshman year (1987), there was a personal ad in the OU Post (university newspaper) that read "Who is Johnny Marzetti, how did he die, and why are they serving him in the cafeteria???"

Anonymous said...

I have an entire veggie tray from a party with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and celery so I thought about my grandmothers old recipe that she called Marzetti. She used egg noodles instead of macaroni noodles and she added peas and carrots....I think the rest is from the original recipe listed here. My entire family is from Galion, Ohio so this has to be the one that inspired her. I'm going to vary it even more by adding all of the veggies from my veggie tray, use cooked turkey meat instead of hamburger and V-8 juice instead of regular tomato juice...she used sauce initially, but while the casserole was baking she would add small amounts of tomato juice to keep it from drying out.....sans hamburger and for the cheese I am using an organic brand of cheddar cheese instead of velveeta type cheese that she would use. I'll write back and let you know how it goes!

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Wow, now that is quite a few variations! But that's what's wonderful about this recipe, it can be adapted to suit each individual's tastes. I like to use organic and natural products in nearly all my cooking and all the ingredients in this recipe can be healthier. The veggie version sounds good too and you will not need to add a salad as a side! Yes let me know how it turns out. It is so interesting to me to hear all the memories surrounding this hearty dish.

Anonymous said...

We live in Southeastern Ohio. Going to Columbus to shop and eat in restaurants when I was growing up was an annual treat for us---especially having dinner at Marzetti's. People really dressed up then and I always felt so elegant there. So interesting to know the family history.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this history. How interesting! (BTW it is "grated" cheese, not "graded" cheese.)

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks for the comment Anonymous. Oops with the "graded" cheese, I can't seem to catch them all, and there are probably quite a few! Since you were able to find the spelling error in this post, would you mind reading other posts and pointing them out? But be forewarned, you will have your hands full, haha

Kelly Hunt said...

Thanks for the recipe from Hilliard!

Anonymous said...

If you grew up in Ohio and went to grade school in the sixties,when you heard Johnny Marzetti ,green beans , bread ,butter and milk on the radio in the morning you knew you were in for a great school lunch. Make it about once a month in cool weather. It"s like a warm hug on a cool day.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Oh my gosh, same here Kelly! And I like that "a warm hug on a cold day" so true and what's needed during some of the cold winter days here in Ohio, last year especially.

Anonymous said...


Excellent post.

Barb in Colorado said...

I too went to school in Chillicothe Ohio. We had Johnny Marzetti also but I remember it more of a baked spaghetti. My mom made goulash but it was with elbow macaroni. The school made it with spaghetti noodles. It was wonderful. Thanks for this information

Anonymous said...

Wow, wish I had found this earlier today. I have been wanting to make Johnny Marzetti, and didn't have a recipe. My Mom used to make this when I was younger and we had it at school. Mom passed away several years ago, so I couldn't ask her how to make it. Born and raised in Newark, Ohio, and next to Shephards pie, Johnny Marzetti was my favorite school lunch, and meal at home. Thanks for this blog, I'll be making this long missed comfort food!

Anonymous said...

So funny. My mom always made this and I love it. One night, my sister's boyfriend was going to eat dinner with us. He came into the kitchen and asked what my mom was cooking for supper. She told him Johnny Marzetti. He had this look of horror on his face and then quietly asked "Who is Johnny Moore's daddy?". Yeah Mark... he ate more than the rest of us! -BA

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Oh my gosh that's a great story! Had me chuckling out loud!

Anonymous said...

My husband has laughed at me whenever I've talked about eating Johnny Marzetti from the cafeteria in Olmsted Falls, OH (Cleveland suburb) when I was little in the late 1950s. I've lived in California since 1963 and there was never such a dish as Johnny Marzetti in our cafeterias. When my husband brought home a jar of Marzetti's Cole Slaw dressing the other day it reminded me again of the cafeteria dish I had loved. I thought perhaps there was a connection since my mom (born and raised in Cleveland) once told me that Marzetti's Cole Slaw dressing came from a local restaurant there. Lo and behold I find your blog and the history of Johnny Marzetti, as well as recipes!!! I am so thrilled. Now I can make it for my family. Thank you so much!

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

So glad you were able to find the recipe. Some recipes from our past or childhood seems to stick with us, even if we haven't had them in years. This is one of those I think. I had the same feelings when I came across the recipe once again after many years and it was also great looking up the history surrounding it. This casserole is as good today as I remembered it, which doesn't always happen. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in NE Indiana and my 1960's grade school years always gets back around to Johnny Marzetti day. What a great meal we got for 10 cents. I am making it today for my honey.

ALS Grumpy said...

I'm 77 and my grandparents, parents and everyone in my extended family in the Panama Canal Zone consider it a favorite. Since leaving the Canal Zone it's the center piece when Zonians gather. This history is valuable for everyone where it's served. A colleague of mine who is an officer with the Friends of the Panama Canal Museum Collection at the University of Florida sent it her extensive email list. I was one of the founders of the museum and several recipe versions were in a cookbook we published 12 years ago. Thanks for your research and blog. I have the song earlier mentioned. Viral information came long before the internet.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Dear ALS Grumpy; Thanks so much for sharing the story of the recipe in the Panama Canal area! And how fascinating (and wonderful) that the recipe made it into the museum cookbook, more than once! I would so love to see the words for (and hear) the song related to Johnny Marzetti. Again, thank you.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recipe! I simply add what I know my family would love....like peppers, mushrooms, and garlic. I also add a store brand basic sauce when feeling lazy. But I typically have a fast formula for my very own homemade sauce that I like over store bought. Humphrey Addison

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Humphrey: Yep I do the same if I don't have my own sauce on hand. And I think that's one of the things that has kept this recipe as a favorite, that it can be tweated to each family's tastes.

Anonymous said...

What size ounces are the cans for the tomatoes sauce and tomatoes?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe :)
Personal Chef, Washington County, Katie Meals

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Oh gosh, I didn't even realize I did not have can sizes in the recipes. Thanks for letting me know. I use the 14.5 oz cans for the diced tomatoes and the 15 oz can for the tomato sauce. I will correct the recipe to reflect the sizes. Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this bit of history! I am from NE Indiana, and I have memories of my grandmother and mother making their version. They use canned tomato soup instead of sauce, and cream cheese instead of some of the cheese. I am guessing that the variation goes back generations. I always grew up thinking that the recipe was unusual, and I wondered who in the heck Johnny Marzetti was. Actually, we pronounced it "mah-zetti"-- I never would have thought it was connected to the family behind the Marzetti dressimgs! From one midwesterner to another, thank you for the bit of history!

Anonymous said...

I also change up and make with noodles used to make for euchre club where I worked ladies and gentleman in their 70, 80 used to ask me to make all time

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks for the comments. And yea, I didn't realize the recipe came from the Marzetti family or that it started here in my home state of Ohio! This recipe brings back a lot of good memories with so many people, and I love that. And that even though it is changed slightly by each cook, it's still Johnny Marzetti. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I grew up eating Johnny Marzetti as part of our school lunches in southwestern PA back in the 1960's. I haven't made the dish in years. My recipe was taken from a local radio station in PA many years ago, but it had more ingredients and took longer to make. Your recipe sounds delicious, and I cannot wait to try it. I am so glad stumbled upon your blog today! I am so glad you told the story of the origin of this dish. Very interesting. Thanks!

melishapiro said...

I grew up eating this at home and school in central Ohio. When I first made it for my New Jersey husband, he dubbed it "hillbilly lasagna"Lol! But he loved it. My only 2 tips are: add a little Worcester sauce to the tomato sauce. It really deepens the flavor and gives that distinctive taste. Also use a nice Sharp cheddar cheese and plenty of it.

Leann Faust said...

The real Johnny Marzetti ( John Leroy Marzetti) was married to my great aunt. he died when he was only 32 years old but his name shall live on forever. His grave is in Mt Calvary Cemetery in Columbus

Carolyn ison said...

I too grew up in Ohio and my mom made this, but she started it with cut up bacon and browned the macaroni in the bacon grease. This was in Cincinnati. We knew it as Rum Dum Ditty for some reason and loved it. I am 73 and still make it.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Leann, I'm so jealous! You were related to a family that could cook like that! Elizabeth

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Carolyn, you had me at bacon. I dazed out and didn't even read the rest of the comment..... bacon. : )
Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the 1950's in Hershey, PA. If there is one dish I can remember being a regular on our school lunch (20 cents) menu it was John Marzetti. It was a favorite, ranking right up there with the chicken corn soup, a staple of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

.20 cents on the menu? I wish we could still get something for that price!! And we absolutely love corn chicken soup! How lucky to grow up in a town that smells like warm fresh chocolate too!

Anonymous said...

I used to make this for a New Year's Eve party which we had every year for the nightside workers at my husband's newspaper. I got the recipe from a cookbook that called it Johnny Mazotti. I used spaghetti instead of noodles. It made a LOT so we always had leftovers the next day.....and the next.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Making it with spaghetti noodles sounds really good. I make a chicken spaghetti casserole so I'm sure Johnny Marzetti with spaghetti noodles would be wonderful! As for the leftovers, (if there are any haha), they are just as good the second and third day warmed up as they were the first day in my opinion! Thanks for commenting

Diana's Gift Shop said...

I grew up in Hubbard, Ohio and we had this often at school and at home :)
I still make it as it is cost-effective, yummy and filling.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Diana, you're in Hubbard, Ohio? Well hello fellow Buckeye!

Melissa said...

I was watching Guy Fieri's show and he visited a restaurant in New England that served "American chop suey." When i saw the chef making it, I said, no way, that's Johnny Marzetti. Anyhow, I got online to search for the origins of JM and it lead me here. I'm from Lafayette, OH and my mom made Johnny Marzetti when I was growing up. Knowing the origins now, I'm wondering if New Englanders used the Johnny Marzetti recipe and created their "American chop suey." I suppose its's possible. Excellent post, thank you so much!

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks Melissa. Yea, seems this recipe has travelled all over and with many changing it just a little to suit their tastes I guess and some even changing the name, Ha!
And hello fellow Ohioian!

Suzi Clarkson said...

Hey Elizabeth! I, too, am an Ohio native. I grew up eating this probably once a week. Never knew where it came from. My partner was born in Utah and he calls it goulash. He makes it about the same but uses tomato juice. Good but not as good. More of a soup. I am interested in your Deviled Eggs recipe. Lots of different ones around. Thank you and keep sharing. Where recipes come from makes them more interesting!!! 😄

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Hello Suzi! Love seeing all the fellow Ohioans commenting! Well truthfully, I like all comments, haha. And I agree, I like knowing the background of a good recipe. It just makes it more interesting to me.
I'll try to post my deviled egg recipe soon, but I have to warn you, it's pretty basic.
Elizabeth

J. M. said...

Thanks so much, my Mom made this when we were growing up outside Cleveland! I never knew it was an Ohio original. Many thanks for the history and two versions of the recipe! I will try both since I do not have Mom's written down!!!

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

You're so welcomed J.M. I really enjoyed finding out the history behind this great recipe too! Let me know which version you like best! Elizabeth

J. M. said...

Hi Elizabeth, Tried both and yours won for taste and texture. I did add mushrooms, however! Many thanks for providing this for all to see and use! J.M.

J. M. said...

Hi Elizabeth, I tried both and yours won for both taste and texture! I did add mushrooms, however. Many thanks, J.M.

Dar said...

Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for posting this! I have many memories of my Mom making Johnny Marzetti. She used noodle instead of the macaroni. Always baked it with the cheese. Oh how this brought back memories! Just curious....did you ever hear of Johnny cake? Another childhood favorite our Mom made us! Thanks again!! God Bless!!

Unknown said...

I had Johnny marzetie in collage it was one of the best meals, I went to Penn Hall Jr college.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks, Dar and your welcome for the recipe. And yes I have heard of Johnny cakes and have been wanting to try a recipe for them. I'll give it a try and maybe make a post! Elizabeth

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

J.M. Thanks so much! I like my recipe best too but that doesn't count, haha. Glad you tried them both. I do that with a lot of recipes, then come up with one by mixing the recipes together of the ingredients we liked best. Elizabeth

Karen Day-Lyon said...

I was born in C'bus, not too far from Marzetti's Restaurant, and my grandfather was a friend of Teresa's, so we went there often and I would never eat anything but Johnny Marzetti. I got the recipe from my grandmother and try to make it every few months. I'm going to try your version, as well, as it looks pretty close to the one I have. Thanks for the memories.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Karen, your welcome! It's so wonderful to hear so many stories about this recipe.
Elizabeth

Anonymous said...



The elementary school cooks in Cincinnati 60 years ago loved making Johnny Marzetti and we enjoyed it once a week. I'm so glad to see your recipe. Thanks for posting.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

You're welcome, glad to share it. And our school served it too and it was years and years ago! Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Connecticut in the 50s and 60s eating marzetti and loving it, as my whole family did. But I never knew about the Johnny part of the name. We had something somewhat similar in our school cafeteria (though not as good) and I believe they called it American chop suey? but I amy be remembering that incorrectly. My mom (the cook) grew up in Alabama but her parents were both from Massachusetts, so I have no idea where the Ohio connection came in. We made it with Cheddar cheese exclusively and did not include any veggies except onions. (I've added garlic to the mix now.) I make it now for my husband, who loves it as much as I do--we like to call it Maserati :^) I made it last night and we started wondering about the origin of the name. So I poked around on the Internet until I found your post--thanks for researching and sharing the history! And what fun to know there are so many others enjoying marzetti out there.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks so much everyone for sharing your stories. And yes, as one commenter said, it's great to know so many others are enjoying Johnny Marzetti too!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in south Florida, and my mother served "Johnny Mazetti" for dinner parties. She was originally from Hartford Connecticut,from an Italian/Irish family. Her spin on it was starting with spaghetti sauce, adding tomato soup, served with wide egg noodles green peppers & black olives. Everyone LOVED it. They relentlessly asked for the recipe, but she kept it a secret! I've made it many times during my married life. I'm divorced now, but I'm getting ready to make it for my 18 & 19yr old granddaughters. Need to keep their Italian heritage strong!!

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Yes, I love heritage and think our family, kids, grandkids need to be taught their heritage and family traditions. I believe it creates a sense of connection, belonging and family. So glad you are carrying the traditions on to the younger generations in your family! Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Hi there. My name is Andrea and i think that is absolutely amazing! I had no idea the history of this dish was from my hometown of Columbus! I grew up with my mom making it for me and my brothers as an easy dinner for us. She still does upon request when we visit. But she never told us it's origin. She also makes it more like a pasta dish rather than a casserole. She uses elbow macaroni, ground beef, tomatoes, tomato paste, onions and serves it with parmigiano cheese on top. When we moved to south western Ohio, I never understood why people hereven called it goulash. Thank you so much for clearing that up for me lol. I love that I will be able to talk to her about this dish and it's history now and realize how everyone has their own variation of this delicious dish. Thanks again!

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks, Andrea! And I was really surprised too when finding out the original recipe is local and my own hometown! Elizabeth,

Anonymous said...

It was so nice to read through the various comments here of how widespread different versions of this recipe has reached. I am from FL and my mother's family was from Ohio. I was told how this dish was served in the schools there. When we fixed it we just called it Marzetti or Zetti. My mother was an exceptional cook with 2 grandmothers who had that same gift. I have yet to find their version of Marzetti in any of the recipes I've seen for it. I make it too. It seems that every family puts their own twist on the recipe. The initial mouth-watering smell of the garlic, onion, and mushrooms sauteeing in olive oil---it's a great start to a "comfort food" evening. As several have stated, it's a dish that brings back fond memories. It was always a hit with everyone that tried it. We use a blend of cheeses in our version.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Yep, we love adding a blend of cheeses!

Bonnie Carey said...

My Mom used to make this all the time for us! we lived in Northern Ontario at the time, with no connection to Ohio or anywhere in the USA. We called it Comfort Food, and we always wanted it when we were sick or on our Birthdays. Very simple recipe, no spices, no mushrooms or peppers, no garlic.... just tomatoes, tomato sauce, onions, ground beef, macaroni elbows and tons of cheddar cheese...mmmmmmmmm

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Bonnie, that's great and yes it is good even with the basic ingredients! And the cheese, we love the cheese in ours. My husband and I did the Lake Superior Circle Tour, camping all the way (except for a night with non-stop rain)and we just love Canada, so beautiful. Thanks for the comment! Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Yes it was the best ! Would love to find that recipie !! Hello from Ohio !

Anonymous said...

Hi, I came across this blog while researching Teresa Marzetti related to the Bexley House and Garden Tour and thought you may like more history. I also grew up in Ohio on Johnny Marzetti at school and at home!

Teresa Piacentini was born 1878 in Florence in Italy. In 1896, Teresa and her husband Joseph Marzetti immigrated to the US.
Joseph Marzetti passed away in 1911, leaving his wife to run the business herself. She opened a second restaurant in downtown Columbus in 1919, and later a third. Around this time Marzetti and her second husband, Carl Schaufele. built a new home together at the edge of town (Bexley, now Columbus), near Wolfe Park on Preston Road. The home is know locally as the Marzetti house and the garden was on the Bexley House and Garden tour this year.

In 1955, Marzetti opened a bottling facility for the dressings on Indianola Avenue in Columbus, allowing the T. Marzetti Company to produce even more dressing. Today, the T. Marzetti Company continues to produce Marzetti's dressings as well as Cardini's, Girard's, New York, Mamma Bella, and Sister Schubert's brands of food. In 2007, the T. Marzetti Company sold more than 200 million dollars in products.
Mama

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Cincinnati. My girl scout troup would make a one pot version of this and cook it over the campfire but would leave out the mushrooms. Love it!

Earl said...

Earl, Ft Lauderdale Fl.

I used to work around the corner from Marzetti's on North High St. I loved getting this for lunch. I remember it being made with egg noodles and a mushroom ragu topped with cheddar. The egg noodles were so much better than the versions made with elbow macaroni.

Joanne Rodriguez said...

I am enjoying reading ALL of these posts! I grew up in Ohio, but was born in Panama (live outside of Chicago now). My family lived in Panama for years and all of my aunts grew up there. Whenever there was a family reunion or special gathering there would be Johnny Marzetti. The "special" version always had black and green olives, peppers, parmesan and other cheeses--the works! But olives could be expensive and they weren't always a pantry staple, and we didn't always have all the cheeses on hand, so my mom would make "poor-man's Marzetti" which would not have olives and usually just cheddar cheese. So funny to read these connections and where this recipe has come from. My family loves it, and I'm making it tonight for back-to-school dinner! Regardless of olives, cheeses, peppers, sauces, etc. it is always a special meal for me! Thank you for sharing.

Joanne Rodriguez said...

And I should add that many men from Akron, Ohio went down to Panama during the depression, post-depression era to work on the Canal. My grandfather was a machinist at Goodyear but had better opportunities in Panama. It is very likely that this type of migration accounted for the presence of the recipe in the Canal Zone. The Panama Canal Society gathers every year, in Florida, and my family is quite involved and Johnny Marzetti is always present! Again, thank you for so many great memories.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

@Joanne Rodriguez, what a great story and I love the additions to the recipe. I think olives and cheese go together so I may just have to try olives! Thanks so much for sharing your story,
Elizabeth

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Hi Elizabeth,
I'm 64 years old now and am originally from SW Illinois and yes, Johnny Marzetti was served in out schools as well and, of course, most kids loved it. Mom made it for special occasions ( even though We are of German stock).

When I moved to Marion, Ohio and my Wife/BFF Jaqui made it for me and I found that We also hat J.M in common, She showed me where the original restaurant was. BTW, We enjoyed J.M. when I was in the Navy ( 1972-76).

We just had our 1st measurable snowfall of this season yesterday (10/27-28) and Jaqui said it was that time of year again so in honor of the 1st snowfall (1/4"), We had Johnny Marzetti. Gott to scoot......Cheera to all,

Larry

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Larry
First snowfall, brrrrr
It's been really chilly here, I'm just about 15 miles outside of Columbus, but no snow yet!
Thanks for the comment and yes I agree, we too like Johnny Marzetti when it's colder out, such a great winter comfort food!
Elizabeth