Easy Johnny Marzetti Casserole (aka American Goulash) | Renee's Kitchen Adventures

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Easy Johnny Marzetti Casserole (aka American Goulash)

Johnny Marzetti casserole is a combination of noodles, rich tomato sauce, ground beef, cheese, bell pepper and sauteed vegetables. It's said to have originated in a restaurant run by the Marzetti family in Columbus, Ohio. It's an easy casserole recipe perfect for potlucks that everyone will love!
Johnny Marzetti by Renee's Kitchen Adventures plated with a green salad on a white plate with a fork

I have to be honest. I've lived in Ohio my entire life and, up until several years ago, I had never heard of Johnny Marzetti.

Sure, I was familiar with the Marzetti name. You might be familiar with the Marzetti family of Columbus, Ohio, too. They are the face of the company behind the salad dressings and dips that you see in grocery stores across the country. 

As the story goes, in 1896, Italian immigrant Teresa Marzetti and her husband Joseph opened their original restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. They served good food and delicious homemade salad dressings. Folklore has it that, one of the dishes served at the restaurant was called Johnny Marzetti. It was a hearty dish made of pasta, tomato sauce, ground beef, and cheese. It's said that this casserole was named for Teresa's brother-in-law Johnny. it quickly grew as a family favorite.

Popularity of this baked casserole dish grew across the country. It was easy to make and delicious! Marzetti's restaurant had a hit! If you live in an area other than Ohio, you might know it as American Goulash, Goulash, American Chop Suey, or Beef Goulash.

Although the restaurant permanently closed in 1972, Teresa's legacy lives on as the T. Marzetti company still produces many of her original salad dressing recipes even today! They're best known for their French and Cole Slaw Dressings. They even make the strawberry glaze I use in my Easy Strawberry and Cream Pie

And, her legacy lives on with the baked pasta dish known as Johnny Marzetti, even if it didn't originate with her! 

I may not have known what this casserole was called, but I've eaten plenty of it over the years. I've enjoyed this dish since I was a kid. My mom made it. My grandmother made it.

I don't know how close my recipe comes to the original recipe, but it's a recipe I've enjoyed for years and I hope you will too!

What is Johnny Marzetti?

According to Wikipedia"Johnny Marzetti is a baked pasta dish, or casserole, consisting of noodles, tomato sauce, ground beef, and cheese. Other ingredients and seasonings may be added to adjust the taste. The dish originated in Columbus, Ohio, at the Marzetti restaurant, and spread to other parts of the United States as variations of the recipe were published in magazines and cookbooks during the mid-20th century. The dish is still served in Ohio, especially at social gatherings and in school lunchrooms."

Close up of Johnny Marzetti by Renee's Kitchen Adventures in pan with cheesy topping

You can use any type of noodle you like in this recipe. Egg noodles, any small shaped pasta (like penne pasta), and even spaghetti will work. I like to use elbow macaroni when I make it.

As with the choice of noodle, you can use just about any kind of melty cheese you like too! I use colby jack, because I like how it melts and tastes. But, you can use mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, or even Parmesan cheese. (Or a combination of cheeses.)  Like heat? Swap the colby jack for pepper jack! YUM!

You can also swap out the ground beef for another protein. Ground turkey, ground pork sausage (such as Italian sausage), ground veal, or even ground chicken will work in this delicious recipe. You could even use a combination of ground beef with pork sausage. 

It's your Johnny Marzetti casserole, feel free to get creative!

Closeup of spoonful of Johnny Marzetti by Renee's Kitchen Adventures over the pan

How to make Johnny Marzetti

Begin by gathering your ingredients:
  • Dry Pasta - I like to use elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef  - I like to use Certified Angus Beef ® ground round. It's has a nice ratio of fat to lean that's perfect for this dish.
  • green pepper
  • onion
  • celery
  • garlic powder
  • worcestershire sauce
  • dried oregano
  • 15 oz. can of chopped stewed tomatoes
  • 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • sugar
  • Colby-Jack cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

Boil the pasta, in a large pot of salted water, according to package directions, except reduce the cook time by one minute to make sure pasta stays al dente. (Pasta will continue to cook in the oven).

While pasta is cooking, saute onions, ground beef, celery, and green peppers in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up the ground beef, until the beef is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. About 10 minutes. 

Process shot of Johnny Marzetti by Renee's Kitchen Adventures browning ground beef with vegetables in skillet

In small bowl, combine stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce, dried oregano, and sugar.

Combine the cooked and drained pasta, the meat and veggie mixture in a 13" x 9" inch casserole dish.

Process image of Johnny Marzetti by Renee's Kitchen Adventures assembling the casserole in the pan

Mix in the tomato sauce mixture and taste for seasoning. Add additional salt and pepper, if needed. If mixture seems dry, add water.

Mix in half the cheese.

Process image of Johnny Marzetti by Renee's Kitchen Adventures assembling the casserole in the pan

Top the casserole with the remaining cheese, cover with aluminum foil, and bake in oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until johnny marzetti casserole is heated through and cheese is melted.

Process image of Johnny Marzetti by Renee's Kitchen Adventures assembling the casserole in the pan adding the cheesy topping

Whatever you want to call it, goulash, American goulash, or Johnny Marzetti, you'll be calling this pasta casserole pure comfort food!

I like to serve this simple dish with a green salad for a complete meal.

More easy casseroles you'll love

Johnny Marzetti, Johnny Marzetti recipe
Main Course, Casserole, Beef, Pasta
Yield: 8 servings
Author: Renee Paj
Johnny Marzetti

Johnny Marzetti

Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 25 MinTotal time: 35 Min
Johnny Marzetti is a comforting casserole, consisting of noodles, tomato sauce, ground beef, cheese, and sauteed vegetables. It's said to have originated in a restaurant run by the Marzetti family in Columbus, Ohio.


  • 16 oz. dry elbow pasta
  • 1 1/2 lbs. Ground Beef Round (85/15)
  • 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 TBSP worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 15 oz. can chopped stewed tomatoes
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water (if needed)
  • 4 oz. Colby-Jack cheese, shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water that has been generously seasoned with salt. Undercook pasta by 1 minute, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  3. In large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add ground round, green pepper, onion, celery, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up the ground beef. Cook until meat is browned and vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. In small bowl, combine worcestershire sauce, oregano, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar.
  5. Assemble casserole by mixing the cooked pasta and ground beef and vegetable mixture in a 13" x 9" baking dish. Pour tomato sauce mixture over onto the casserole and mix to combine.
  6. Mix in half of the shredded cheese. Taste for seasoning. Adjust salt and pepper to your liking. If casserole seems dry, add water.
  7. Top casserole with the rest of the cheese. Cover with foil.
  8. Place in preheated oven and bake until heated through and cheese is melted, about 20 to 25 minutes.


While pasta is cooking, cook the beef and vegetables and prepare the tomato sauce mixture.Use block cheese that has been shredded. Packaged shredded cheese contains a starch to keep it from sticking together and won't melt as well as shredded cheese from a block. Put a little heat in your Johnny Marzetti by swapping the Colby-Jack cheese with Pepper Jack cheese!

Nutrition Facts



Fat (grams)

20.95 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

8.63 g

Carbs (grams)

30.91 g

Fiber (grams)

3.29 g

Net carbs

27.62 g

Sugar (grams)

7.84 g

Protein (grams)

31.55 g

Sodium (milligrams)

916.39 mg

Cholesterol (grams)

88.73 mg

Nutritional Information is an estimate.

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Close up of Johnny Marzetti by Renee's Kitchen Adventures with text overlay on a pin image for Pinterest

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  1. Great dish! A pasta bake is always a winner. Love your lighter version. Great facts- #8 is my favorite- that is SO cool!! My Mom is also an RN. Hope you have a great weekend

  2. Yum!!! Looks like I know what Monday nights dinner will be! Thanks for sharing!


  3. LOL! I can't believe you are an Ohioan and havent heard of Johnny Marzetti!! When I saw this I was instantly taken back to my Grandma's kitchen. Thank you for stirring a lovely memory. I am going to print this and make it.

  4. @ Christina...I know, right? I must just live too far north! haha I hope it turns out like the dish you remember!

  5. Thank you so much Renee for passing on the Versatile Blogger Award to me. Loved all the facts you shared with us. I used to make what you call Johnny Marzetti and we just called it Beefaroni. I love the way you lightened it and will have to make it again.

  6. So...I'm pretty sure I have everything to make this for dinner tonight! I had hamburger setting out, but just didn't know what to do with it...now I do!

    Hats off to L&D RN's...we just had our second baby and I LOVED each nurse I had. If I had the energy, time and money to go back to school again, that is what I'd go back for!

  7. I;ve never heard of that dish, but it reminds me of a dish that my Mom made growing up - she called it "slumgulion" but I am sure she made it because she could use less meat to feed our family of five.

    Happy Easter!! Have a great weekend Renee :D

  8. YUMMY! Being from PA you'd have thought I'd have heard of this name, too, but I never have. We used to make this all the time but it didn't really have a name, lol.

    HAPPY EASTER!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Awww...thanks for the award Renee! Love your facts and getting to know you better!! Have a wonderful Easter Weekend!!!

  10. That is interesting. I love finding out about new recipes.

  11. Happy Easter! I think it's funny you don't like to cook on the weekends!! I would've never guessed that! :)

    Looks like some wonderful blogs to check out! Congrats to the chosen bloggers!

  12. I love this kind of casserole. I use them for church suppers and pot lucks as well as when my grandsons are visiting. I'm so glad you posted this. I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Blessings...Mary

  13. This looks amazing!! Thanks for including the history of the dish - I love to know the background stories to these crazy names!! I love that you lightened it up a bit - I do that quite often!! Thanks for linking up to Foodie Friday!

    If you haven’t already, make sure to pop back over to enter my giveaway!!! Entries must be by Sunday evening and a winner will be picked Monday!!

  14. Ha ha... I think my husband has been trying to get me to make this dish! He's always explaining something that sounds a lot like this...

  15. I learned something new, never heard of this dish before either! Looks good though and it would be a nice easy recipe.

    Thank you!

  16. Forgot to say thank you for the shout out too! I am like you in the fact that I don't always like to cook on weekends! Hey we need a break sometimes right?

  17. How funny...I first saw this dish a few weeks back (and now can't remember who made it)...and now here it is again. Isn't that always how it works!? Looks so comforting and tasty. And yeah, salad dressings were the first thing that came to name when I heard it, too. I loved learning those fun tidbits about you! Happy Easter :D

  18. Very interesting and very delicious looking!

  19. Thanks for posting on this recipe, I hope to try it this weekend, looks good!

  20. This dish looks scrumptious and I love the lighter version, too! Congrats on your well deserved award and thanks so much for passing it along to me. I am honored and really appreciate it! Cheers!

  21. This looks wonderful! I love that you used shells too - I rarely use this pasta and need to get back into it!

  22. I've never heard of this, either, but it looks yummy! And I totally want to move to the south, too! When we were in OK and TX, I kept telling my husband "I belong here! I am a warm-weather soul!" :)

  23. I have lived in Ohio all my life and my mom always made Johnny Marzetti... but we never knew why it was called that! :) I just emailed her your recipe as she is doing WW, too. Thanks!

  24. Just found your blog recently and can't wait to try this recipe. Am I understanding correctly that 1 pound of ground turkey and 1 pound of lean (93/7) ground beef are the same amount of weight watcher points? Good news as I just can't get my stomach around the thought of ground turkey and/or chicken. Same goes for whole wheat vs regular white pasta, right? Points are the same if one just doesn't enjoy the taste of wheat. You really seem to know how to substitute ingredients so well go get the lower points. Love that. Okay, my husband is reading over my shoulder and saw the Johnny Marzetti and asked what I was doing. Seems he well remembers being served that many, many times in grade school while being raised in Ohio. Thanks for all your hard work.

    1. Yes, I do believe the points + are the similar for lean ground meat vs. ground turky . Since ground meat can come in so many fat/lean mixes...you should choose the 90/10 (10% fat) or less fat for a swap...and if you go less fat than 10% on the ground beef, it's actually LESS points than the 93/7 ground turkey by one point plus. ( Lean ground beef with less fat than 10% is 2p+ for 2oz and 93/7 ground turkey is 3p+ for 2oz.). Whole wheat pasta on the other hand is one point plus less than the regular pasta for the same amount. Personally, I do both pastas, but tend to do regular pasta more often and just take the higher point value. But in this dish, I like the whole wheat because it helps keep the overall points plus of the dish down. ( 2 oz. (dry) whole wheat pasta is 4p+ and 2 oz. (dry) regular pasta is 5p+.)


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