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Kitchen Mailbox: Johnny Marzetti immortalized as casserole

Thursday, November 04, 1999

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

What's Johnny Marzetti? Johnny Marzetti is a casserole created in the 1920s by the owner of the Marzetti Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Who was Johnny Marzetti? According to the "American Century Cookbook" by Jean Anderson, Johnny Marzetti was the brother of the owner of the Marzetti Restaurant.

Casseroles steamrolled into the kitchen in the 1940s and have remained popular staples to this day. The Johnny Marzetti casserole was popular in the mid '50s and early '60s. It consists of meat, pasta and either tomato sauce, soup or juice.

When Mary Dietrik of Venetia requested a recipe for this hearty casserole, the mail poured in. As we read through the recipes, we realized there were as many versions of this dish as there was mail. We wish we could print every recipe we received because every one sounded delicious.

We chose two recipes that are similar to the original recipe -- and we chose the third recipe because it was absolutely one of the quickest meals we ever made.

Inga Bauman of Lyndora, Pa., remembers the Johnny Marzetti casserole from high school. Bauman received her recipe from the Knoch High School cafeteria in 1963.

Johnny Marzetti

1 pound ground chuck
1 onion, diced (we used a medium size)
1 green pepper, diced
1 teaspoon oil
1 large can tomatoes (29 ounces)
1 large can tomato juice
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Garlic salt, to taste

Brown meat, onion and green pepper in oil.

Drain, then add tomatoes, tomato juice and spices.

Add cooked macaroni to sauce. Simmer 10 minutes and serve.

Susan Hawkins of Whitehall says this casserole is a family favorite -- she's had the recipe since the late '60s.

Johnny Marzetti

1 (8-ounce) package noodles (we used egg noodles)
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 (8-ounce) can mushrooms (juice included)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano
2 cans condensed tomato soup
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup water
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
8 ounces (2 cups) sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Brown meat; add onion, green pepper and mushrooms. Cook until tender, then add seasonings; set aside.

In another pot or bowl, combine soup, tomato paste, water and Worcestershire sauce; set aside. Cook noodles and drain.

Place a layer of noodles in a greased casserole (we used 9-by-13-inches), then a layer of meat mixture and half of the sauce and half of the cheese.

Repeat, ending with the remaining cheese.

Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 1 hour.

Here's a version sent in by Phyllis Sember of McDonald, Pa.

She credits it to the Cecil Elementary PTA cookbook, "Kids Cookin' " (1988).

Johnny Marzetti

1 pound ground chuck
1 small onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) bag of noodles (we used egg noodles)
1 1/2 cups grated American cheese, see note

Brown beef and onion. Add remaining ingredients and place in a casserole dish.

Top with grated American cheese. Bake at 275 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

Note: This recipe didn't call for any amount of cheese -- we used 1 1/2 cups, but more or less may be used.


A request from Vivian Gates of West Mifflin: "About 20 to 25 years ago, there appeared in either The Pittsburgh Press or Post-Gazette a 'winning' recipe from a man. I remember he was retired from the Navy. His recipe was onion bread -- one of the ingredients was mayonnaise. I made it and it was the best onion bread I ever had. Could someone please send in this recipe?"

Sherri Gould of Cheswick ordered apfelsalat (apple salad) at the Penn Brewery. This salad consisted of apples, toasted pecans, celery and chantilly sauce. Would anyone have a recipe for chantilly sauce?

Can anyone help Mary E. Creighton of Rosslyn Heights? She'd like the recipe for lemon chiffon pie topped with homemade whipped cream (not meringue) and a recipe for stuffed mushrooms with crab meat with garlic butter sauce.

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com.

Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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