Lightened Up Johnny Marzetti | Renee's Kitchen Adventures

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lightened Up Johnny Marzetti

Lightened Up Johnny Marzetti:  a midwest favorite!  #skilletmeal #easydinner

If you are wondering what a Johnny Marzetti are not alone.  I didn't know what it was until I made it either...but 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."

Ok...I am an Ohioan....and I am familiar with the Marzetti name as in salad dressings and dips....but I have never eaten nor made this dish before in my whole life.

What a shame I waited this long to discover this though...

Lightened Up Johnny Marzetti:  a midwest favorite!  #skilletmeal #easydinner

Because it is really delicious and I will definitely be making this again.  This dish could potentially be a dieters disaster...but with a few changes, it can be made WW friendly and easily fit into a healthy meal plan.  It is quick and easy to prepare, using many ingredients that are on hand and as explained in the history of this dish, it would make an excellent pot luck kind of casserole to take to a gathering or a great weeknight meal. 

Lightened Up Johnny Marzetti:  a midwest favorite!  #skilletmeal #easydinner

I found the original recipe at fact, there are quite a few versions for this dish to be found there.  To lighten up the recipe version I chose to follow,  I used extra lean ground beef ( 93/7), whole wheat pasta and replaced the cheese with a reduced fat variety and decreased the amount called for by half.  I also increased the amount of pasta in the dish, and doubled the serving amounts.  What I arrived at was a nice big serving for 8p+.  When paired with a veggie salad, as I have shown, and dressing your salad with a 1p+ dressing, this whole delicious meal comes in at 9p+.

I decided to use shell pasta, because that is what I had in my pantry, but you could use any whole wheat type pasta you desire.  The original recipe called for egg noodles, and since now there is a whole wheat version of those as well, you could do those too....but I am not sure the nutritional stats would remain the same if you did.  I think I might use plain old macaroni shaped noodles next time...because this dish reminds me of  beef-a roni. Give this easy dish a try and see what you think!

Lightened Up Johnny Marzetti
adapated from Allrecipes

Servings - 8   Serving size - 1/8th of recipe ( approx.1 cup+ )   Points Plus per svg - 8 points+
Calories - 298.5,   Total Fat - 4.8g,   Carb. - 43.7g,   Protein - 21.8g,   Fiber - 5.7g

12 oz. whole wheat pasta of your choice
16 oz. extra lean ground beef ( 93/7 ) (for best results use Certified Angus Beef® brand)
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup fresh mushrooms, diced
1/2 tsp. - 1 tsp. garlic powder
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 TBS. granulated sugar
2 TBS. Worcestershire sauce
2 (15 ounce) cans of tomato sauce, reduced sodium, if possible
4 oz. reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese

1.  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.  

2.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray.  

3.  In large nonstick skillet, brown the ground beef , onion, mushrooms, and garlic powder.  ( You can put it all in together and cook at the same time) When beef is browned and onions are tender, drain off any excess liquid you might have.  Replace meat mixture to skillet and add tomato sauce, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Allow to simmer for 15 minutes to blend flavors. 

4.  In prepared casserole dish,  layer half the pasta, followed by half the tomato/meat mixture, and then half the cheese.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Cover with foil and bake in oven for 20 -30 minutes, or until heated through. 

Earlier in the week, I mentioned that I received a Versatile Blogger Award from Nicole@HeatOvento350 and as the rules state, you need to share 7 random facts with your readers and choose 15 blogs that are new to you that you have recently enjoyed.  The first part of the award task wasn't that hard...but the second....oh gosh, I have read and seen SO MANY wonderful blogs out there...I wish I could link to every single one.  The food blog community is absolutely amazing and I am constantly blown away by so many of the beautiful photos and wonderful recipes ppl are making or developing!  So with that said, the second part will be very hard for me!  

So my 7 random facts are as follows:
1.  I am an RN, although I have been a stay at home mom for many years....I worked in Labor and Delivery at a local hospital.  
2.  I am proud of all my kids accomplishments...I am blessed and have three great kids! 
3.  I don't like to cook on the weekends. 
4.  I have two brothers, no sisters.
5.  I have always felt connected to the south and hope that some day, some way, I will be able to move there and out of Ohio for good!  
6.  I LOVE to grocery shop! 
7. I had a full scholarship to my first year of college, but had to drop out the last quarter because I got mono so bad!  ( and yes, the mere fact that the college was in quarters still shows my age!  haha )
8.  I used to make and decorate cakes as a business.  My kids were very was HARD!  lol (oops...I guess I gave you a bonus fact!)


  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 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 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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