Johnny Marzetti’s Immigrant Casserole
Ayyyy! You don’t know Johnny Marzetti? Who don’t know Johnny Marzetti?
Well, if you don’t know who Johnny Marzetti is, don’t feel so bad. I’m sure not many outside of the culinary world do. His claim to fame is this casserole.
The casserole is the creation of Marzetti’s sister in law, Teresa Marzetti. Teresa was an Italian immigrant who settled in Columbus, OH in 1896. She opened a series of restaurants in the area that boasted the motto, “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.”
One of the dishes served was the Marzetti casserole. It is a baked casserole that includes ground beef, cheese, tomato sauce and noodles.
No one is really sure when Teresa first started serving the dish, but by the 1920’s it had become popular in the Midwest due to how easy it was to prepare. It is still popular today and is often served in schools and homes everywhere. In fact, the original recipe is preserved at the Ohio Historical Society.
And, although Teresa died in 1972, she still lives on in this wonderful dish as well as her fine selection of Marzetti Salad Dressings.
There are many variations on the Marzetti casserole as is the nature of casseroles in general. A variety of vegetables can be added, and meats can be used. Bell peppers, onions and celery are often featured in the dish, and, in our recipe, we also included sausage.
The Marzetti Casserole is a filling, hearty dish on a winter’s day or it can also be a quick meal to prepare in the summer if you won’t be spending much time in a hot kitchen. Once you prepare the ingredients, you can just layer it in the dish, heat the oven and voila, you have a great recipe to serve your family on any given day.
12 ounces rotini pasta (about 4½ cups)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 onion, minced
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound ground beef
½ pound bulk mild Italian sausage
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2½ cups shredded Italian cheese blend
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13×9 inch baking dish.
2. Bring 4 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a large pot.
3. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often, until just al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer to the prepared baking dish.
4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
5. Add the celery, onion, bell pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (5 to 7 minutes).
6. Stir in the garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
7. Add the beef and sausage, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, breaking up any large clumps with a wooden spoon until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
8. Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, bring to a simmer, and cook until the flavors are blended, about 3 minutes.
9. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
10. Sprinkle 1¼ cups of the Italian cheese blend evenly over the pasta. Pour the meat mixture over the pasta and cheese. Sprinkle the remaining 1¼ cups of the cheese evenly over the meat mixture.
11. Place the baking dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Cover dish with heavy aluminum foil.
12. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes; until the sauce is bubbling. Remove the foil and bake an additional 8 minutes until the top is slightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.