Johnny Marzetti ...Kentucky style!


When I was kid we played outside and when I say that, I mean we played outside all day long from the time we got up to dark and sometimes even after dark.   We played at other kids houses and they played at ours, but my mother had a rule that you could not go inside any one's house no matter what. If she found out you went in any one's house, you would not be allowed to go back.  I am sure other parents loved her rule and looking back it was a smart rule to make.  One day I was playing with some kids who I usually didn't play with, but the older of the two and I had two loves...softball and gymnastics, so we gravitated to each other.  They wanted me to come in their house so I could see their rooms and such.  I hated to say my mother would kill me if I went inside, so I decided to take a chance and go in for just a peek. 

As soon as that door came open, a smell that was like heaven on earth hit me right in the face.   It was tomatoes and garlic and cheese and I was always hungry no matter how much I ate back then.  I guess I just blurted out,  "What in the world is that I smell cooking?"    Their mother said,  "We are having Johnny Marzetti for dinner".     I said, "Who is he?"  They all looked a each other and died laughing and I was still confused.  Had a Johnny Marzetti moved in nearby and I had missed it?  Why were they laughing at me?  They explained that is was a casserole called Johnny Marzetti. I had never heard of food named after a man...very strange.  I asked what was in it, because I knew I needed to have my mama cook this.   They had the recipe and showed me what all went in it and I took it all in.  I was always very curious about food and recipes, even then.  

From what I understand Johnny Marzetti originated in Columbus, Ohio at Marzetti's Italian restaurant back in the 1920's maybe.  Some say the owner had a brother named Johnny he named the dish after.  It's theorized it was a way to use up the red sauce that was left over.   There are so many recipes for it now and my version is my own, but they all have meat sauce, pasta, onion, green pepper and some form of cheese in common. 

This is a budget stretcher and makes a box of pasta and  a pound of ground beef go a long way!  In these economic times, we all need more of these dishes. 

Here is what you will need:

 1 lb. ground beef, 1 jar or can spaghetti sauce of our choice, 1 can tomato paste, pasta, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, pepperoni, salt, pepper, garlic powder.

1 lb. ground beef or chuck
1 cup pepperoni slices
1 jar or can pasta sauce ( I used Ragu Sweet Basil and Sun dried Tomato)
1 lb. pasta
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups water
1 Tbs. sugar
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup Cheddar cheese
2 cups Mozzarella cheese
1 cup onion chopped
1/2 cup green pepper chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. garlic powder 

You can use 2 jars of pasta sauce instead of the tomato paste and water.  I think the tomato paste makes a richer meat sauce.

Cook the pasta just until al dente.  You can use just about any pasta you have on hand...penne, rotini, even egg noodles work well.  Pour them into a large casserole dish you have sprayed with cooking spray.

Brown ground beef with onion and green pepper. Drain any fat off.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic salt.  Add pasta sauce, tomato paste, water, sugar and basil.   Stir and bring to a low simmer.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.


 Pour the meat sauce over the pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese. 

Layer pepperoni on top of cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese again. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and starting to brown.

Johnny Marzetti...KY style!

Mama's Potato Salad!

For me, potato salad sort of falls into the same category as meat loaf and cornbread, it seems basic and a lot of people make it, but it's something that people can really mess up for some reason.  When it's bad, it's usually way bad.  My mother, makes the best potato salad I have ever eaten, so I guess I am spoiled to hers.  I went and cooked with her yesterday to get the exact recipe and see what her 'secret' is.  I didn't get step by step pictures, mainly because my mother moves too fast, and also because it's actually pretty basic.   So here are the ingredients:

4-5 large baking potatoes or 8 cups diced (baked)
1/2 cup sweet onion like Vidalia
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
1/2 cup chopped pimento
4 eggs boiled
1 stick melted butter
1 1/2 cups Miracle Whip (if you must use mayonnaise, use mayonnaise)
2 tsp. yellow mustard
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

First boil the eggs and let them cool, peel and chop them, bake the baking potatoes until they are done.  She bakes hers in the microwave.  When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and dice them. Chop the celery, onion, and pimento fairly big chunks.  Place the eggs, potatoes, chopped celery, pimento, onion and relish in a large mixing bowl.  Pour the stick of melted butter over all. Add 1 1/2 cup Miracle Whip, if you are one of those people that has to use mayonnaise only, us it instead.  This is one of those things that really needs the Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise, but it's a matter of taste and what you like too.   This is one of the few things we use Miracle Whip in, instead of mayonnaise because it just makes it taste better.   Add the mustard, sugar, salt and pepper and stir it up good.   You can sprinkle the top with some paprika for a little color or (this is my touch, not my mother's)  I use some Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning to dust the top for a little color and kick.

Mama's Potato Salad!    

White Chicken Chili ... with the crunchy things!

It has been cool and a little dreary for the past week or so in southern Kentucky.  I think April and March got confused and traded places weather-wise.   We had beautiful warm, almost hot days in late March and now we are having cool, almost cold days and nights.  I am not sure what is going on, but it's very strange.  I am reading that it even has some of the birds migrating up from Mexico and South America confused and they are getting here way early.   It is the type of weather that makes me want soup and I know we won't have a whole lot of cool weather like this for soup after April so I am going to eat my soup now.

White chicken chili is such an easy soup or really it's a stew.  Doesn't Rachel Ray call that a stoup?  The 'crunchy things' part of this comes from when my son was little.  There was a restaurant we ate at that had the best tortilla soup that we all loved.  It had lots of good stuff in it that he would never have eaten otherwise, like zucchini and tomatoes and onions.  More than likely he was pushing those things around in his bowl and not actually eating them, but it made the feel like he was so it worked for

  I decided that since he loved it so much, I would try to make it at home.  I made my version and it was pretty good.  My son's critique of it was that it would just be perfect if you could make the 'crunchy things' they put on top of it, because, "Mama, that is what really makes it".   We tried tortilla chips in it.  No, that wasn't the same.  So, I got some flour tortillas, cut them in strips with my kitchen shears and deep fried them.  They were a hit!   So now when I make any sort of Mexican soup...tortilla, white chili, taco soup, I have to make the crunchy things to go on top.  They really do turn a plain soup into something a little more appetizing.  One warning, if you ever start doing this, your family will want these every time you make soup, so be prepared.

Here is what you will need:

White beans (navy or great northern) chicken bouillon cubes or canned chicken broth, onion, white chicken chili mix, Philadelphia cooking cream Sante Fe flavor, jalapeno pepper rings, cheddar cheese, chicken breasts, and flour tortillas for your crunchy things.

I coated some chicken breasts with a little oil and then sprinkled them with chili powder, salt and pepper, then roasted them in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes (depending on thickness).

Soften the onion in a little vegetable oil. 

To the onions add 5-6 cups of water (depends on how thick you like it...I add 6 because I like some broth in it), 3 Knorr chicken bouillon cubes, the white chicken chili mix, and jalapenos chopped. Stir to mix the chili mix in well. Add the chopped or shredded chicken and the 2 cans of beans (don't need to be drained). Bring this up to a boil and then turn back to simmer for about 30 minutes. 

 At the end add the Philadelphia Santa Fe flavored cooking cream.  I set this out when I start to cook to bring it up to almost room temperature so that when I add it to the hot soup it won't break.  You can also temper it with some of the hot soup to gradually bring it up to temperature.  You can substitute an 8oz cream cheese for this cooking cream.  It was on sale and I had a coupon so I tried it and it is so good. It adds a zip of flavor to this also.  I do make it with just the cream cheese also and add a little more spices to it with Tabasco and cayenne pepper, but go easy on these until you taste test for heat. 

Now cut your tortillas in strips like this.  I usually do about 4 or 5 large ones, but if you have company you will need to do a lot more.  If you have kitchen shears they work great, if not, lay them on your cutting board and use  sharp knife.   If you have some tortillas that are not so fresh and are sort of dry, this is a great way to use them up.

Drop by batches in hot oil. I just use my little Fry Daddy for perfectly.  Watch these closely because they cook in no time.  They will brown on the side that hits the oil first and you need gently flip them over to brown the other side.  I use the utensil that you get with the Fry Daddy or you could us a metal slotted spoon.  When they brown, pull them out carefully and drain a paper towel lined plate.  Immediately sprinkle with salt and do the next batch. 
These are also really good sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar for a sweet snack or to use as a garnish on a dessert.

I top each bowl with some shredded cheddar cheese, some sliced green onions, and the 'crunchy things'.   Have a plate of extra crunchies on the table also cause they go fast! 


3 cups chopped or shredded chicken breast ( I roast mine)
2 cans white beans (navy or great northern)
1 envelope of white chicken chili mix (you can substitute 1 tsp. garlic powder, 2 tsp. cumin and 1 tsp. oregano)
3 Knorr chicken bouillon cubes (if you use another brand of the small square ones use about 6)
5-6 cups water (depending how thick you like it)
1 container of Philadelphia Santa Fe cooking cream (can substitute 8 oz. cream cheese, dash of cayenne and a dash of Tabasco)
1/4 cup chopped jalapenos (can substitute a small can of mild green chillies if you don't like too much heat)
5-6 large flour tortillas
cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
green onions for garnish (optional)

Pizza By the Yard!

We love pizza and I like to make homemade pizza quite often.  I always said I was going to open a pizza place, but now it just seems like too much  I am not big on most frozen pizzas and sometimes you just don't want to order out and wait for delivery and it always ends up costing twice as much as you think it should.   This is a way to have homemade tasting pizza that is almost as quick as frozen and almost as good as real homemade and costs even less.    This recipe is so easy it's sort of silly and I almost didn't post it, but I realize that a lot of people want easy and they haven't been cooking forever like me, so maybe they haven't thought of this.

So this is what you need:

French bread loaf, pizza sauce, Parmesan cheese, Mozzarella cheese and whatever toppings you prefer.  I used sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions.

My family does not care for the taste of Italian sausage (I do... but I don't count) so when a recipe calls for sausage of any kind, except smoked or kielbasa, I use breakfast sausage and it works great.  I am picky about my sausage though.  The best sausage you can buy is Purnell's "Old Folks" sausage.  It just has a better taste than other sausages you buy at the super market.  If sausage doesn't render any fat in the skillet, it is not good.  Sausage is supposed to have some fat in it.  I drain if off, but it's pig people and pig fat is flavor. Purnell's is not real fatty, but it has enough that it isn't going to burn in the skillet or stick.  There is something wrong when you have to put oil in the skillet to cook a sausage patty and that is how some of the other sausages are now days.  They are genetically engineering pigs so much they are breeding the fat right out of them. Pork is not chicken, even if they do call it the other white  Ok, that's my pet peeve for today...yesterday it was mac and cheese!

Any who, I keep these frozen patties in my freezer and just take out what I need for recipes.  They thaw in the pan in no time and you can crumble them up as they brown.  Purnell's does make Italian sausage that comes in a roll like breakfast sausage that is wonderful also.  They are also a Kentucky company which is a bonus, but when I first started using it, I didn't even know that.

So after I brown some sausage or you could use ground beef, split the French bread down the middle with a serrated knife and lay on a big sheet pan or large pizza pan.  At this point, either toast the bread a little in the oven before adding the sauce or take slices of provolone or mozzarella and lay them down first before the sauce.  Either of these steps will keep the sauce from making the bread soggy.  Next spread each with the sauce.

Add your toppings.  I added sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and onions (just on mine), then sprinkled on some Parmesan cheese and covered each with mozzarella cheese.  Place in a 400 degree preheated oven and heat until it is slightly brown.


1 French bread loaf
2 cups pizza sauce
1lb. sausage or ground beef
1 package pepperoni (you won't need it all)
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2-3 cups mozzarella cheese
Any other toppings you like


No Bake Luscious Lemon Bars!

I had a bag of lemons in the fridge that really needed to be used so I decided that I would make lemon bars.  I also had cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk, two of my favorite things, so I thought they should be no bake lemon bars.  In southern Kentucky, once the weather gets warm, the last thing you want to do is turn the oven on to bake something.  This dessert is rich and wonderful and no heat is required. 

Here is what you will need:

Graham cracker crumbs, butter, lemon Jello instant pudding, cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, frozen whipped topping (Cool Whip), lemon juice, milk, and vanilla flavoring.

With an electric mixer whip together the softened cream cheese and condensed milk.

Add 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 pkgs. lemon pudding mix, and 1/2 cup milk and blend well.  Fold in 8 oz. frozen whipped topping slightly thawed until well incorporated.

Melt 1 stick of butter and add 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs to it, mix and then pat into a 9"x13" baking dish.  Pour the lemon mixture over the crust.   Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, overnight is great also.

When it has set up, sprinkle about a 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs over the top.

Top with a swirl of whipped cream and a lemon slice and you have a beautiful dessert without ever turning on the oven.


2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2  3 oz. pkgs. instant lemon pudding mix
1/2  cup milk
8 oz. frozen whipped topping (Cool Whip)
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice  ( juice of 2-3 lemons)
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs for topping

Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Alfredo!

I love Alfredo sauce on just about anything and if you add sun dried tomatoes, that just makes it all that much better.  This is one of our favorite pasta dishes.   It feeds a lot of people for not much money also.   I usually use penne or bow tie pasta for this, but you can use any kind you have or prefer.  If your family doesn't care for the sun dried tomatoes, leave them out, but for me that is what makes is so good.
Here is what you will need:

Chicken breasts (I used chicken tenders), bow tie or penne pasta (I prefer Barilla), Parmesan cheese, jar of Alfredo sauce (Bertolli is the best), garlic powder, cream cheese, half and half, sun dried tomatoes, and butter.

Sprinkle the chicken breasts or tenders with garlic powder, seasoned salt and black pepper and roast until done. 

Soften cream cheese either by leaving it out on the counter or placing in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.  Add the jar of Alfredo sauce, 3 cups half and half, 1 Tbs butter.  Microwave for 1 minute and then whisk in 1 cup Parmesan cheese until it is all blended well.  Add 1 tsp. of garlic powder and 1/2 tsp. black pepper and stir. This seems like a lot of sauce but the pasta really soaks it up.

Cook the pasta in salted water until it is al dente and drain well.  Don't overcook because you will be baking it.  Mix with sauce and chicken you have chopped in bite sized pieces into the pasta. Chop the sun dried tomatoes into small pieces and stir in.   Pour into a 9" x 13" baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.   Sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan cheese and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. 

Sun dried Tomato Chicken Alfredo! 

1 lb. pasta (bow tie, penne, rotinni)
3 cups chopped chicken
1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes ( the ones packed in oil are best)
1 jar of Alfredo sauce ( I have tried them all and I think Bertolli is the best)
8oz. cream cheese
3 cups half an half
1 Tbs. butter
1  1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
seasoned salt

Pizza Dip and Homemade Bread Sticks!

This is one of those recipes that is really simple, but so delicious it is ridiculous!  I originally saw the pizza dip on one of the best Internet sites ever invented, Pinterest!  My niece, Whitney introduced me to Pinterest and I loved it the first time I got on and saw what it was all about.  It just has the most creative thoughts of people from all over in one place...amazing! 

This dip is such a good party food or great if you have to feed a bunch of teenagers (double the recipe for that though)!  The bread sticks are something I have been making for  a while, because I love Olive Garden's bread sticks and for a long time we didn't have an Olive Garden here in town  (for some reason they closed it), but now we do have a new one only five short years later...go figure, only in corporate America are such decisions

Here is what you will need for the dip:


4 oz. cream cheese softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup pizza sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
sliced pepperoni (about a cup)

Mix the softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, and 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese and 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese. I added the garlic powder and the basil to this mixture and also chopped about half of the pepperoni and mixed it with the cheese mixture.  Spread this mixture in a pie plate.  Top with the cup of pizza sauce, the other 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, the other 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, and the rest of the pepperoni.   You can add any pizza toppings you like at this point.  The recipe called for black olives and chopped green peppers.  My family doesn't care for those, but I think it would be really good.  Some chopped mushrooms would also be great or some jalapeno slices.  Add whatever your gang likes. 

Place in a 350 degree preheated oven and cook until hot and bubbly... about 20 to 25 minutes.

The bread sticks are even easier.  This all you will need for them:

1 loaf of Rich's Frozen bread dough  (this is the loaf not the rolls) or any frozen yeast bread loaf
1 stick butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Thaw the bread dough on your counter until it is pliable but still fairly cold.  Cut it with a very sharp knife or kitchen shears (the handiest thing ever) across the loaf like you are slicing a loaf of bread, not longways.  You should be able to get about 9 or 10 pieces.  Take each piece and roll it between your palms like you did when you made Play-doh  Roll it into a long piece about 9 inches long.  This sometimes takes some rolling and stretching. 

Melt your butter in a shallow dish, like a pie plate and mix in the garlic powder and Parmesan cheese.  Roll each piece of dough in this mixture and coat well.  Place on a large cookie sheet.  Space these far enough apart to allow them to rise, because they will almost triple in size.  Put your cookie sheet in a warm place, I usually put it on the stove top at the back.    Let these rise for about 2 hours to get the complete rise out of the dough.  Place on the middle rack of your oven and bake at 375 degrees until they are brown.  Different ovens take different amounts of time, but mine usually takes about 13 - 15 minutes.   Keep an eye on them though because the bottoms will brown first and can get too brown quickly.

These are perfect for dipping in the pizza dip.  They are also great with spaghetti, lasagna or any pasta meal and they are so much better than the premade frozen bread sticks.  You will never want those again!

Curried Chicken Cheese Ball!

Did you know that today is National Cheese Ball Day?  Don't feel bad I didn't either.  Which is sort of ironic, because I planned on posting this cheese ball recipe today before I found out it was National Cheese Ball Day.  I just happened to get an email from Food Network and it said something about "In Honor of National Cheese Ball Day" ...very strange.

This is sort of a different cheese ball than most people make and if you like the flavor of curry you will love it.  I always make this cheese ball when my sister and nieces are coming to visit because they love it.  I must admit it is rather addicting.  It's one of those things you just can't quit eating, like potato chips or M&M's. 

Here are the ingredients you will need:

Canned chicken breast (canned works best for this because it mixes better), 2 blocks cream cheese, Parmesan Cheese, cheddar cheese, green onions sliced thin, Tabasco sauce, garlic powder, curry powder, soy sauce and walnuts or pecans to roll it in.

Leave the cream cheese out of the refrigerator until it is soft.  Slice the green onions as thin as possible and include some of the green blades for the color.   Mix the cream cheese, green onions, curry, shredded cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, soy sauce, and Tabasco sauce.  Mix in the chicken that has been chopped in small pieces.   Place it back in the refrigerator to chill before you try to roll it in a ball (about an hour will do).  Chop walnuts or pecans fairly fine and place them on wax paper or foil.  Shape cheese mixture into a ball and roll all sides it the nuts. 

This is really good served with seedless grapes, strawberries or sliced apples and Nabisco Chicken in a Biskit crackers.
It makes a huge cheese ball so I usually divide in half and make two out of it.


1 cup chicken chopped
2 8 oz. cream cheese (you can use light cream cheese if you prefer)
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 Tbs. curry powder ( I use mild curry powder so if you are using hot curry powder, use less)
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Southern Traditions!

I found this on Pinterest and realized that we still do a lot of them, but maybe not as much as I wish we did.  We definitely have a somewhat slower lifestyle and have maintained some of the good manners of our southern ancestors, but we need to work a little harder on making sure our children and grandchildren know it's important to maintain some of this culture so it's not forgotten, because it is what makes us, as southerners, unique.

BLT Pasta Salad!

This is one of my favorite pasta salad recipes and it's always a hit whenever I take it to something.  Pasta salad is one of those things that can be really good or really blah.  This one is never blah.  I sort of just made this recipe up one day so I can't credit it to anyone really. 

Here is what you will need:

Penne pasta or you can use bow tie, ranch salad dressing mix, butter milk, mayonnaise, sour cream, roasted red peppers, green onions, bacon, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, Nature's Seasoning, Tabasco, taco seasoning (like El Paso), cheddar cheese. Notice that I used Barilla pasta.  I prefer Barilla pasta most of the time.  On many things, I just buy whatever is on sale or the store brands because I can't tell much difference, but I do think Barilla is the best dry pasta and it costs only pennies more and at times it's the same price as the store brands.

Chop the green onions including some of the green blades, the red pepper and the tomatoes.  Fry the bacon until crisp and drain on a paper towel.

Boil the pasta until it is al dente and then drain well.  Do not rinse it with cold water like so many recipes call for.  It mixes better if it's a little warm.  I just put it back in pot I boiled it in after I made sure it was dry, to mix all of the salad ingredients together.  Add the chopped vegetables, Parmesan cheese, Nature's Seasoning and the dressing which we will make next.

Mix the ranch dressing mix with mayonnaise, buttermilk and sour cream.  Add 1 Tbs. taco seasoning and a dash of Tabasco sauce to taste.  I usually add about 5 drops or so.   Pour over salad ingredients and mix lightly.

Chop the bacon and add it at the end.  Mix lightly again and put in a glass salad bowl.  You can chill it before serving or serve just as it is.  It's equally good either way. 

This is great to take to potlucks or to serve at cookouts! 


1 lb. penne pasta
6 slices bacon
1/2 cup sliced green onions or you can use Vidalia onion
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1 cup chopped tomatoes  Roma or cherry tomatoes halved works best)
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pkg Ranch salad dressing mix*
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbs. Taco seasoning mix
dash of Tabasco sauce
1 tsp Nature's Seasoning or 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese sprinkles on top (optional)

*You can use a good bottled Ranch dressing instead of making your own.  Just add 1/2 cup sour cream, the taco seasoning and Tabasco to about 2 cups of it and mix.