My collection of homemade Lonoke County cookbooks reaches back into the 70s. My copy of the 1984, "Loaves, Fishes, and First Baptist Dishes," handmade by the First Baptist youth group, bears the splashes, splotches, stains and notes that build up in a much-used good cookbook. One of the recipes, from Helen Jones, has the curious title of "John Ben Getty." It is simple:

1 1/2 lb. ground beef

2 med. onions

1 green pepper

Brown and salt to taste.

Add:

1 can pimentos

1 can tomato soup

1 can mushroom soup

7 oz. pkg. cooled noodles, top with cheese; bake at 350 degrees till cheese melts. [Presumably, "cooled" noodles means "cooked."]

Simple, indeed, but it proved to have an interesting history.

Curiosity piqued by the odd name prompted me to do a Google search. It appears the recipe originated more than 100 years ago as a casserole named "Johnny Marzetti," and the name evolved into a number of versions, including John Ben Getty, Johnny or Jonny Magetti, Massetti, Mazette, Masetti, Yumazetti and John Ben Getti.

This from Ohio History Central: "Ohioan Teresa Marzetti was the first person to serve the casserole Johnny Marzetti in a restaurant.

"In 1896, Italian immigrant Marzetti arrived in the United States of America. That same year, Marzetti established an Italian restaurant in Columbus, Ohio on Broad Street. This restaurant closed in 1942, but another restaurant, which had opened in 1919, remained in operation until 1972, when Teresa Marzetti died. Before opening the original restaurant, Marzetti wrote, ‘We will start a new place and serve good food. At a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but we will serve good food.’

"One of the dishes that Marzetti offered her customers became known as Johnny Marzetti, which was named for Teresa Marzetti’s brother-in-law. A baked casserole, the dish included ground beef, cheese, tomato sauce, and noodles. It is unclear when Marzetti’s restaurant first offered the dish, but by the 1920s, it had become popular across Ohio and the Midwest. This was primarily due to the ease of preparation and the tastiness of Johnny Marzetti."

Other sites describe how the dish became a staple of school cafeterias.

Teresa Marzetti also founded the T. Marzetti Company, which continues today with the brand names Marzetti, Cardini’s, Girard’s, New York, Mamma Bella, Sister Schubert’s and numerous others.

One blog cites The Ohio Historical Society for preserving Teresa Marzetti’s original recipe, "It’s the mother recipe for all the ones that followed." The blog, http://ohiothoughtsblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/johnny-marzetti-recipe-and-history.html, lists this as –

"THE ORIGINAL JOHNNY MARZETTI"

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3/4 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 pounds lean ground beef

3 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 1/2 pounds cheddar cheese, shredded

1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked and drained

Sauté onion in oil until limp, about 3 minutes.

Add mushrooms and fry until juices are released, about 5 minutes.

Add beef and cook, stirring, breaking up clumps, until no longer red.

Remove from heat and mix in tomato sauce and all but 1 cup of cheese.

Transfer to greased 9- by 13-inch baking dish and add macaroni.

Toss gently to mix. Scatter remaining cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, in 350-degree oven until browned and bubbling (35 to 40 minutes). Serves 10 to 12.

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Here are some other selections from "Loaves, Fishes, and First Baptist Dishes" – spelling from the originals is not corrected; I like the image of someone crouched over a Royal manual getting it done with a two-finger peck - when minor errors were lived-with rather than going through the ordeal of erasing:

Pepper Steak (from Carolyn Waller)

2 lbs. flank or round steak (cut in 2" strips)

2 Tbs. fat

2 Tbs. flour

1/2 c. ketchup

1 beef cube dissolved in 1 c. hot water

3 Tbs. soy sauce 1/8 tsp. pepper

1 onion sliced in rings

2 green peppers sliced in rings

1 can sliced mushrooms (optional)

Brown meat in fat in large pan. Remove meat leaving a little fat. Stir in flour, soy sauce, ketchup, pepper and beef cube dissolved in hot water. Heat to boiling point, add beef strips and onion rings. Cover and simmer for 30 min. Add green pepper, mushrooms and juice and simmer for another 10 min. Serve over rice.

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My Noodle Dish (from Betty Griffin)

10 oz. pkg. egg noodles, cooked as directed

6 1/2 oz. can Tuna drained

1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup

1/4 c. finely chopped onion

1/2 to 3/4 c. of milk

dash of black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into greased casserole dish Bake 350· until bubbly.

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This recipe carries Sue’s, my wife, mark of "Good!" at the top, with added notes making it a "dash" of paprika, and to first bake the piecrust and cool before filling.

Sausage Ouiche (from Ada Murdoch)

1 (9in.) pie crust oil pastry

1/2 lb. Pork sausage

1/2 c. green onion, chopped

1/4 c. chopped green pepper 1 tsp. prepared mustard

1/4 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 tsp. basil

1/4 tsp. crushed oregano

1/2 c. grated swiss cheese

3 eggs beaten

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. milk and paprika [Sue - dash]

Bake pie curst for 10 min. [Sue - 450, cool] Brown sausage with onions and green pepper. Drain. Blend in mustard, garlic salt, basil and oregano. Place sausage mixture in pie crust. Sprinkle cheese on top. Blend eggs, salt, milk. Pour over mixture. Garnish with Paparika.

Bake 350 degrees for 40-45 min.

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Got a local cookbook, especially with cooks’ names? Share some of the recipes here.

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Shelly Magie Moran began the "Sharing the Best" column 25 years ago as a recipe exchange for favorite recipes - they need not be fancy or original, just good cooking that you and your family enjoy.

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