John Marzetti, depending on where you grew up, was once as common as tuna noodle casserole. This type of dish goes by many names including Johnny Marzetti, slumgullion, American chop suey, and American goulash. The crowd-pleasing meal combines some of the most recognizable aspects of Italian American cooking into one convenient pot. Growing up this was a near-weekly dish in my household and us kids always (always) asked for seconds!
The first John Marzetti recipe was created by Ohio resident and Italian immigrant, Teresa Marzetti, who made this dish for her brother-in-law around the turn of the 20th century. The family had three restaurants in Columbus over the years, each serving Italian flavors. By the 1920s John Marzetti had spread across the Midwest and has since become a family favorite for many.
This recipe is extremely easy to customize. You can make it with all beef or all sausage, a mix of both, or even plant-based ground meat. Like so many other casseroles, the beauty is in the preparation: you can use what you have on hand.
You’ll need to cook the onions, garlic, and meat in a pan before transferring to a casserole dish with the rest of the ingredients for the final baking.
One thing that is very appealing about John Marzetti is that you can make this one on a budget. The original recipe was sold for 45 cents a serving in the old days! While you might not be able to make it that cheaply today, it certainly is still an economical casserole. A variation of John Marzetti can be made using a box of mac & cheese as stand-ins for the rotini and Cheddar as my mother did on weeks we had to really stretch the family budget.
Some versions also add green peppers to the mix, or use other types of pasta. The options are wide open for you to make this dish completely your own. Try this flavorful casserole and just see if it doesn’t make the regular rotation from now on!
John Marzetti Casserole
1 hour 15 minutes to prepare / serves 8
- 2 cups rotini pasta
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb bulk Italian sausage
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 lb white mushrooms, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
- 2 cups grated mixed Italian cheeses
- 1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese, grated
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
- Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain well and set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, season the ground beef and Italian sausage with salt and pepper, and cook until browned.
- Reduce heat to medium, and add onion and mushrooms and cook until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more.
- Add the Italian seasoning, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce, and stir to combine. Simmer for 1-2 minutes, then set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Spread a small amount of sauce over bottom of prepared baking dish, then top with the cooked pasta.
- Sprinkle Italian cheese over the pasta, followed by remaining sauce. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
- Remove, uncover, and sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, 5-10 minutes.
Recipe adapted from The Kitchen Magpie.