Food Exhibit

Johnny Mazetti (or Marzetti??)

Popular dishes come with a multitude of variations, and I have come across many recipes for Johnny Ma(r)zetti, even how the name is spelled! They seem similar enough, but there is some distinction from one another. I would like to know your experience with this cuisine–was it typically served at your dinner table? Brought to potlucks? Catered for events? Where did it originate?

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  • Doris Monaco

    This is what is on the address above:

    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 Columbus, Ohio 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.

    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:


    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.

  • Cheryl (Peterson) Russell

    Thanks, Doris, for the historical background. Growing up in the Canal Zone (Panama), this casserole was a staple in our family. It continues to be a favorite in my adult life. My mother-in-law used to say the secret was to fry the onions, celery and green pepper separately and she used flat noodles. My father always said the secret was to use strong cheddar cheese and he used elbow macaroni. “Arturo Sauce” may also be considered to be the secret ingredient by many people. The first time I told some state-side friends that I was having Johnny Mazetti for dinner…they asked “who is Johnny Mazzetti?” Now I can tell those non-Zonian friends…
    WHO (Teresa Marzetti) WHAT (recipe) WHERE (Ohio) WHY (delicious, easy, favorite) !

  • Dale C Clarke

    Hi there,

    I’m a Zonian in case you don’t know me and did early work to perpetuate the ‘Specie’ – Zonian – I mean that online-wise, BTW…

    “Johnny Mazetti” was how my Mom typed it in her recipes in 1942 and she worked in the governor’s office and was meticulous in her fact checking

    This of course is the Retro with the story and cooking how-2 with images I’m sure you have seen for “Johnny Marzetti” … Not Canal Zone related.

    It all started back in 1896 when Italian immigrant Teresa Marzetti started serving it at her family’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, on Broad Street.

    This popular dish came to be known as “Johnny Marzetti” after her brother-in-law.

    There are more CZ items in my recipes. Most importantly being, I have the recipe here for MAKING Arturo Sauce from a person in the company that made it… ((-8

    Here’s some from copying an extemporaneous blog we ran back in late 90s early 2000s. The extracted text versions of the Mazetti

    Below is the link for the blog [4-500 pages] reading which may interest you to be found on my site Full site which I’m not sure how PC Museum UF could have missed it… Anyway please take a look around… I don’t spend time on it anymore as I am too busy employed and paying the bills…



    From: vreilly


    Sun Jun 11, 2000


    Subject:Re: Johnny Masseti Recipe Wanted

    Ok Charly, you are in luck. I have the Tivoli’

    s Johnny Mazzetti recipe. It is really good.

    Hope you enjoy it. Here goes:


    1. l lb ground beef

    2. 2 cups onions

    3. 2 cups green peppers

    4. 2 cups celery

    5. 3 8-oz cans mushrooms (drained)

    6. 1 jar 15-oz stuffed olives w/juices

    7. 1 16-oz can tomato soup

    8. 1 6-oz can tomato paste

    9. 4 8-oz cans tomato sauce with mushrooms

    l0. 1 16-oz package egg noodles

    11. 2 lbs sharp cheddar cheese

    Brown meat. Add vegetables, chopped. Simmer about 5

    minutes. Add liquids

    (5-9) and mix well. Boil noodles according to package instructions. Add to


    mixture. Stir well.

    Put half of mixture in pan 15X12X2 1/2. Cover with sharp cheddar cheese.

    Add rest of mixture, cover with cheese. Bake in moderate overn (350 degrees) for

    45 minutes to 1 hour.

    Serves 12.


    5 cloves garlic, sliced

    1 tsp Italian Seasoning

    1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce

  • Carl N Berg of Cocoli

    See: THE NEW COCOLI DICTIONARY co-authored by Carl N Berg (BHS 1960) of Cocoli and Pat Dempsey Propbst (BHS 1960) of Balboa, page 27: Johnny Mazzetti-baked pasta casserole; first recipe dates back to c. 1896 in Marzetti’s Italian Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio of ground beef, noodles, cheese, and tomato sauce; became popular dish in Canal Zone, where name Marzetti often corrupted to Mazzetti……..NOTE: The entire 59-page dictionary can be viewed in the University of Florida’s Panama Canal Museum archives at the following site:…Unfortunately, readers are not yet able to leave comments, but that special feature is being developed.

  • Joseph J Wood

    There is a good history and many great recipes for Johnny Mazetti in the award-winning Panama Canal Museum cookbook, “Opening the Gates to Canal Cuisine.”

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