Panama Canal Zone Johnny Mazetti Recipe

by Kelly R. Smith

Canal Zone style Johnny Mazetti
Canal Zone style Johnny Mazetti
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A lot of people will tell you that this dish originated in Columbus, Ohio, but it is safe to say that no group of people have enjoyed it as much as Zonians. Some variations on the name are Marzetti and Marzotti, but whatever you call it, it’s just the thing to wash down with a bottle Cerveza Panama (or Balboa or Atlas if you prefer; people seem to be polarized on this).

Following is my list the traditional ingredients, but when I put some things in parentheses, that just means that these are substitutions I have experimented with and enjoyed. You are encouraged to do the same. You won’t be the first or the last, and there are many variations out there. Who knows what old Johnny would say about that?

List of Ingredients (Organic where Possible)

  • 3/4 lb. grated cheddar cheese (or mix it up; I last experimented with half cheddar and half asiago)
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 large green bell pepper (or yellow or red)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (I like red onions)
  • As much minced garlic as you like
  • 1 16 oz. can of tomato sauce (or Pace Picante Sauce, hot or mild)
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 can of Arturo Sauce if you can find it; Amazon has it, (otherwise, 8 oz. can of tomato sauce)
  • 1 can of mushrooms (I prefer bulk shrooms; shiitake, baby bella, or portobello)
  • 1 8 oz. can of tomato paste
  • Black and/or green olives, with or without the juice, about 7 oz. total
  • 18 oz. package of egg noodles (or try my egg noodle recipe)
  • Optional: Hot peppers! (I said Panama, right? Aji chombo or habaneros works for me.)


Preparing Johnny Mazetti
Preparing Johnny Mazetti
  1. Cook the ground beef and vegetables in a large skillet.
  2. Add in all the sauces.
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.
  4. Add the olives and mushrooms.
  5. Remove from heat and cook the noodles.
  6. Mix it all together and place it in a 9” X 13” glass baking dish.
  7. Spread the cheese on top.
  8. Bake for 1 hour.
  9. Remove and enjoy.

This batch of Johnny Mazetti this size will serve 6 to 8 people, depending on appetite. This is a particularly good dish as a recovery food after a long run or after a hard workout. It is also one of those foods that gets better when reheated after being frozen or refrigerated; something about the flavors mingling together. It’s best served with cold beer or wine. Enjoy!

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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