Johnny Marzetti ...Kentucky style!


When I was kid we played outside and when I say that, I mean we played outside all day long from the time we got up to dark and sometimes even after dark.   We played at other kids houses and they played at ours, but my mother had a rule that you could not go inside any one's house no matter what. If she found out you went in any one's house, you would not be allowed to go back.  I am sure other parents loved her rule and looking back it was a smart rule to make.  One day I was playing with some kids who I usually didn't play with, but the older of the two and I had two loves...softball and gymnastics, so we gravitated to each other.  They wanted me to come in their house so I could see their rooms and such.  I hated to say my mother would kill me if I went inside, so I decided to take a chance and go in for just a peek. 

As soon as that door came open, a smell that was like heaven on earth hit me right in the face.   It was tomatoes and garlic and cheese and I was always hungry no matter how much I ate back then.  I guess I just blurted out,  "What in the world is that I smell cooking?"    Their mother said,  "We are having Johnny Marzetti for dinner".     I said, "Who is he?"  They all looked a each other and died laughing and I was still confused.  Had a Johnny Marzetti moved in nearby and I had missed it?  Why were they laughing at me?  They explained that is was a casserole called Johnny Marzetti. I had never heard of food named after a man...very strange.  I asked what was in it, because I knew I needed to have my mama cook this.   They had the recipe and showed me what all went in it and I took it all in.  I was always very curious about food and recipes, even then.  

From what I understand Johnny Marzetti originated in Columbus, Ohio at Marzetti's Italian restaurant back in the 1920's maybe.  Some say the owner had a brother named Johnny he named the dish after.  It's theorized it was a way to use up the red sauce that was left over.   There are so many recipes for it now and my version is my own, but they all have meat sauce, pasta, onion, green pepper and some form of cheese in common. 

This is a budget stretcher and makes a box of pasta and  a pound of ground beef go a long way!  In these economic times, we all need more of these dishes. 

Here is what you will need:

 1 lb. ground beef, 1 jar or can spaghetti sauce of our choice, 1 can tomato paste, pasta, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, pepperoni, salt, pepper, garlic powder.

1 lb. ground beef or chuck
1 cup pepperoni slices
1 jar or can pasta sauce ( I used Ragu Sweet Basil and Sun dried Tomato)
1 lb. pasta
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups water
1 Tbs. sugar
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup Cheddar cheese
2 cups Mozzarella cheese
1 cup onion chopped
1/2 cup green pepper chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. garlic powder 

You can use 2 jars of pasta sauce instead of the tomato paste and water.  I think the tomato paste makes a richer meat sauce.

Cook the pasta just until al dente.  You can use just about any pasta you have on hand...penne, rotini, even egg noodles work well.  Pour them into a large casserole dish you have sprayed with cooking spray.

Brown ground beef with onion and green pepper. Drain any fat off.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic salt.  Add pasta sauce, tomato paste, water, sugar and basil.   Stir and bring to a low simmer.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.


 Pour the meat sauce over the pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese. 

Layer pepperoni on top of cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese again. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and starting to brown.

Johnny Marzetti...KY style!


  1. Our family loves this pasta dish. The first time I tried the recipe, my kids walked in the house and said it smelled delicious and what was I making. I mistakenly called it "Johnny Mazaretti"... to which my 15 year old daughter, who loves the movie "Grease 2", said, "Oh, Johnny Nogarelli!! Cool!" Johnny was one of the "Thunderbirds" in Grease 2. We shalll forever call this dish "Johnny Nogarelli" :)

  2. Had this first at a friends house and knew I had to have recipe. I agree you can't go wrong with this one and next time I'll add pepperoni too

  3. I grew up in southern Ohio, and we made this alot. I had totally forgotten all about this delicious dish from my childhood. Going to make this for my south Georgia hubby!

  4. This is pretty much the same recipe I use for baked rigatoni.The only change besides the pasta is I chop the pepperoni up and mix it in as well as about half the cheese..It is always a big hit with the Grandsons!Thanks for all the great recipes.I check out your blog everyday.Oh,and I live on the Mason-Dixon Line (on the Southern side,of course !)

  5. My mother in law from Ohio mskes this..Once she told me the name of it I totally thought she had made up this recipe on her ownn.but boy did it taste delicious when she is done.. She adds saausage to her ground beef and omits the peperoni...yum!!

  6. I want to know what happened when your mother found out that you were in someone's house. lol

    1. Lol...some things Mama just didn't need to know. :)

  7. Sounds great. However, in Texas firing up the oven in summer is not desirable. I wonder if this could be done in a crock pot. Any thoughts?

    1. I like thin pepperoni that will crisp a little in the oven. I also live in Texas, so I know what you mean. If you cook this to done, you could place it into a casserole dish, put on the cheese and pepperoni, and let it spend a little time under the broiler inside the oven- melting the cheese and sizzling the pepperoni.

  8. I grew up in NE Ohio, we made this as well but it is called Goulash here, not to be confused with Hungarian Goulash which is all together different!

  9. When I moved up to Ohio from my home in the South we were invited over to my in laws for dinner. She said we were having "Johnny Marzetti's"! I had no clue what we were going to have until we sat down for dinner and realized it was Goulash!

  10. My Mama made this for Daddy and us 7 kids. She added whole kernel corn and no pepperoni. We ate a lot of Goulash in Western Massachusetts but this is a little different. This is a baked dish and so delicious! We didn't know the spelling of the last name and called it "Johnny Mousetti". :)



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