Johnny Marzetti Casserole

The Ultimate Johnny Marzetti Casserole: A Culinary Symphony of Comfort and Flavor


In the realm of classic comfort food, few dishes evoke the same sense of nostalgia and satisfaction as the Johnny Marzetti Casserole. Originating in the heartland of America, this hearty casserole has graced family tables for decades, bringing warmth and flavor to countless gatherings. Today, we embark on a culinary adventure to create the ultimate Johnny Marzetti Casserole – a dish that not only pays homage to tradition but also welcomes innovative twists for modern palates.


For the Meat Sauce:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Casserole:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream


Making the Meat Sauce:

  1. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and Italian sausage over medium-high heat. Drain excess fat.
  2. Add chopped onions and minced garlic to the skillet. Sauté until onions are translucent.
  3. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Mix well.
  4. Pour in red wine (if using), dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and pepper. Allow the sauce to simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Assembling the Casserole:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked elbow macaroni, shredded mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, cottage cheese, and sour cream. Mix until well combined.
  3. Grease a deep baking dish and layer half of the macaroni mixture at the bottom.
  4. Pour a generous layer of the meat sauce over the macaroni mixture.
  5. Repeat the layers, finishing with a topping of mozzarella and Parmesan.
  6. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

Cooking Notes:

  • Experiment with different types of cheese for a personalized touch. Sharp cheddar or provolone can add a delightful twist.
  • For a time-saving option, prepare the meat sauce in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to two days.
  • Don’t shy away from adding a dash of red pepper flakes for a subtle kick.


Vegetarian Johnny Marzetti: Replace the ground beef and sausage with a medley of sautéed vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms. Enhance the sauce with extra herbs for a burst of flavor.

Seafood Twist: Incorporate cooked shrimp, crab, or a combination of both into the meat sauce. This variation adds a unique seafood flair to the classic dish.

Spicy Kick: For those who enjoy a bit of heat, add diced jalapeños or red pepper flakes to the meat sauce. This variation elevates the dish with a spicy, savory punch.

Keto and Low-Carb Versions:

Keto Johnny Marzetti:

  • Substitute the elbow macaroni with cauliflower or zucchini noodles.
  • Use ground beef and sausage without added sugars or fillers.
  • Opt for a sugar-free tomato sauce and tomato paste to reduce carbohydrate content.

Low-Carb Twist:

  • Replace the elbow macaroni with a low-carb pasta alternative or spiralized vegetables.
  • Choose a lower-carb red wine or omit it altogether.
  • Utilize full-fat dairy products to maintain richness without the added carbohydrates.

In the tapestry of culinary delights, the Johnny Marzetti Casserole emerges as a masterpiece, weaving together flavors that transcend generations. As you savor the layers of pasta, savory meat sauce, and melty cheese, you’re not just enjoying a meal; you’re partaking in a rich tradition that has stood the test of time.

Whether you opt for the classic rendition, explore tantalizing variations, or embrace keto and low-carb adaptations, the Johnny Marzetti Casserole remains a symbol of comfort and indulgence. As you serve this dish to your loved ones, you’re not merely sharing a meal but creating a sensory experience that resonates with the warmth of home.

So, gather your ingredients, embark on this culinary journey, and revel in the joy of crafting a Johnny Marzetti Casserole that reflects your unique taste and style. Let this dish become a staple at your family gatherings, a symbol of love and connection that transcends the boundaries of time. The Ultimate Johnny Marzetti Casserole awaits – a timeless masterpiece that celebrates the art of home cooking.

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