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What Is a Johnny Marzetti?

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  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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A Johnny Marzetti is a baked pasta dish which was first made by Theresa Marzetti for her brother-in-law Johnny, at her restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, in the 1920s. While recipes may vary slightly, the dish is made up of ground mince, tomato, cheese and pasta which is mixed together in a casserole dish and baked.

Theresa Marzetti moved to the USA from Florence, Italy late in the 19th century and opened her small Italian restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. It remained open, gaining in popularity, until her death in 1972. During that time, Theresa and her restaurant became known for many things, including her famous salad dressings, and her baked casserole dish, the Johnny Marzetti, a favorite of her brother-in-law.

The pasta used in the Johnny Marzetti differs from recipe to recipe and can be macaroni, bows, egg noodles or any other pasta type. Most recipes use cooked pasta but in some, the pasta is added uncooked and cooks in the sauce of the dish. If cooked pasta is used, it is important to follow the recommended cooking instructions to avoid overcooking.

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Depending on the recipe, onions, celery, mushrooms and peppers may be added to the mince, which should initially be browned in a little bit of oil in a pan. The mince should be well broken up before adding the tomato. Again, recipes may differ, some using chopped, canned tomatoes, or tomato sauce or tomato juice, or a combination of these. It is added to the meat mixture and seasoned with herbs like oregano, salt and pepper.

This is left to simmer and reduce for several minutes and then the noodles are added, with cheese, and mixed well before placing in a baking dish. Some Johnny Marzetti recipes don’t mix the meat and pasta, but rather layer them, with the cheese, in the baking dish. Regardless of which method is followed, grated cheese is spread over the top of the dish and it is baked in the oven until the cheese is bubbling.

In another variation of the Johnny Marzetti recipe, a tin of mushroom soup is added. Tinned tomato soup may also be used instead of chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce. Regardless of which variation is used, the resultant pasta casserole is creamy and rich and perfect for a cold winter's night. Again depending on which recipe is used, it can be very quick to prepare.

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