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Charlotte’s Johnny Marzetti

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"Johnny Marzetti is a regional dish that purportedly originated in Columbus, Ohio."

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Why I Love This Recipe

In other places they might call it chili mac, but in Ohio we all know that this is the original. There are as many versions of Johnny Marzetti as there are cooks. This is the one I know and love. It comes from my husband’s grandmother, Charlotte. She used to make this when she would have family get togethers big or small. After she died, we couldn’t find the recipe in any of her things. We tried to re-create the recipe but never got it quite right. Then one day, my husband was talking to one of Charlotte’s friends and mentioned this recipe. The friend said, “Oh I know how to make that! I used to make it with her all the time!” So the recipe was pulled back from the brink of extinction. There was much rejoicing.

This is a great pantry dish, and although it’s better if you let it simmer for a while, it comes together quickly if you need a fast dinner. You can easily make swaps for your dietary requirements – use vegan cheese; substitute vegetarian proteins for the beef (textured vegetable protein (TVP) or any of the many ground meat crumbles that are available); use gluten free pasta. It also scales up well if you need to feed a crowd.

--Aly M.

--Westerville, OH

Ingredients You'll Need

2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp parsley flakes
1 can tomato sauce (29 oz)
1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz) -don’t drain
1 packet chili seasoning
V8 or other tomato juice (optional)
1 lb macaroni noodles
Shredded cheddar (or other yellow cheese) for topping


Prepare the pasta – boil for 3-4 minutes. They will be undercooked.

In a soup pan or stock pot, brown the ground beef and drain. Add the onion to the same pan and sauté on medium-high heat oil until translucent. Add garlic and sauté another minute, stirring often so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the parsley flakes, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chili seasoning, and pasta. Mix and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes or longer, stirring often to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Add V8 or tomato juice as needed to keep the dish saucy enough—the undercooked pasta will absorb some of the liquid. You can mix some cheese in at the end (but don’t tell Charlotte, it’s not traditional by her recipe!). Serve topped with cheese.

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