Casseroles that defined every decade from 1920 to 2020
100 Years of Casseroles
I grew up on casseroles and still make and eat them a lot today. Casseroles are basically a hodgepodge of ingredients put together in a 9 by 13 inch pan and baked until hot and bubbly. Casseroles have been around forever and creative moms and dads have used the casserole as a vehicle for unused items in their pantries and refrigerators to get eaten for dinner.
Casseroles made in the Instant Pot are a bit different. Most of the time you’ll use the pot-in-pot method because of the lack of thin liquid in a casserole. I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the casseroles that have been popular throughout the last 100 years and their modern Instant Pot or slow cooker counterparts. Enjoy!
1920s: Johnny Marzetti
The tomato sauce and noodle dish called Johnny Marzetti started back in 1896 when Italian immigrant Teresa Marzetti started serving it at her family’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, on Broad Street. This popular dish came to be known as “Johnny Marzetti” after her brother-in-law.
By the 1920’s, it was popular all across the midwest and started being served in public schools. Teresa’s original recipe is preserved at the Ohio Historical Society. The simple dish consisting of ground beef, cheese, tomato sauce and noodles became an instant hit at only 45 cents a plate!
I don’t have a recipe for Johnny Marzetti per se but I do have American Goulash and it is very similar.
1930s: Tuna casserole
According to American food writer Heather Arndt Anderson the first recipe for tuna casserole appeared in Sunset Magazine in 1930. It was called Noodles and Tuna Fish en Casserole and included mushrooms and a cheese topping. I think most people are either hot or cold in their feelings on tuna casserole. I, for one, love it.
1940s: Meatless Casseroles
As the U.S. entered the Second World War, food rations and tight budgets led to the rise of meatless meals. Home cooks used their backyard gardens to provide dinner more and more often.
Try making this meatless delight of turmeric and cumin spiced onions, cabbage, potatoes and carrots.
1950s: Green Bean Casserole
A home economist named Dorcas Reilly worked at the Campbell’s kitchen, and in 1955 she successfully devised and tested the infamous green bean casserole recipe. In numerous interviews Reilly gave years later about the invention of the casserole, she professed to not remember exactly how she came up with that specific dish. I’m just grateful she did. I love this dish about two times a year. Lol!
1960s: Scalloped Potatoes
According to Taste of Home, “In the 1960s, we were over simple casseroles and craved something a bit more exotic. Thanks to Julia Child’s influence, French cuisine went from a restaurant luxury to a dinner table regular.”
1970s: Hamburger Helper
Hamburger helper was first introduced in 1971 and it quickly became popular. Usually it is associated with a box but my version is homemade in the Instant Pot and tastes, oh, so good.
1980s: Pasta Primavera
The New York Times says (speaking of pasta primavera), “The dish, rarely seen now, became an absurdity of 1980s so-called seasonal cooking. Meant to be an expression of spring, the mad jumble of vegetables over pasta was mostly an expression of the death match between French and Italian cuisine (cream versus olive oil, sauce versus pasta).”
1990s: Greek Chicken Rice Bowls
According to Taste of Home, “In the 1990s, health enthusiasts fell in love with the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. Dishes featuring olive oil, fresh fish and sundried tomatoes ruled.”
2000s: Low Carb Breakfast Casserole
In the early 00s we ditched our fat free products and fell in love with fat. The Atkins diet became super popular and carbs became a big no no. Try out this low carb egg dish that has bacon, beef, cheddar and pickles. This easy quiche-like dish is perfect for breakfast or dinner. It reminds of the Starbucks egg bites.
2010s: Quinoa Everything
In the 2010s the health craze focused on superfoods. We became obsessed quinoa and actually learned how to pronounce it! Avocado, another superfood, also became a lot more popular. Try my Instant Pot Mexican Quinoa and Black Beans. It is flavorful quinoa with salsa, black beans and sliced avocado.
Since we are only one year into the 2020s I’m not sure what this decade will be defined by. But If 2020 is any indicator then I am guessing it will be some sort of yeast bread or sour dough bread. We all took to bread making and baking in general as we were at home a lot more and had more time on our hands. And although these aren’t casseroles, some of my favorite yeast bread recipes are:
MORE Instant Pot Casseroles…
Instant Pot Total Dude Casserole
Instant Pot Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie
Instant Pot Cheeseburger And Fries Casserole
Instant Pot Tater Tot Casserole
Instant Pot John Wayne Casserole
Instant Pot Beef Chow Mein Casserole
Instant Pot Kitchen Sink Casserole
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What a fun post reading about casserole days past! I love casseroles & these are great recipes to tidy up meal planning this week. I remember tuna casserole being blue box mac & cheese plus a can of tuna & peas 💓. What did we ever do without our Instant Pot & much healthier/yummier from scratch versions of old favorites? For some reason, I’ve never jumped on the quinoa train so looking forward to trying your recipe (I think?😂) as my first time to eat quinoa even though I don’t know what that is. Love primavera but haven’t had in ages. Now I must have some. Thanks Karen!
Quinoa is fun! My family really likes it in the place of rice. It cooks so fast in the IP.
Thank you for all these wonderful recipes. My grandsons’ favourite is the Hamburger Helper. He’s 8 years old and can make it himself.
I’m happy to see the quinoa and black bean recipe. I’ve been making it for several years in a frying pan. I usually make it with Hot Italian Sausage . Could I just brown that in the Instant pot and continue with your recipe?
Yes you could brown in the IP and then follow recipe as written. Will be wondeful!
These are great ideas! I first learned of Stromboli in the 1980’s. Nice to see some of these American cuisine dishes updated for the modern family cooks.
Thanks Elena! I love stromboli it is so good!
Thank you for this culinary walk down “Casserole Memory Lane”! I LOVE casseroles of all kinds; made them all the time with the kids growing up. Since I now follow a keto/low carb diet, and most casseroles have pasta, rice or potato as the filler, they’re off limits. Thanks for posting the lower carb breakfast casserole!
I wonder if you could use cauliflower rice in the place of regular rice?
Yes, I do that occasionally, also riced broccoli or a mix of them both.