Chicken Tetrazzini

My mom always made Chicken Tetrazzini (or with turkey after Thanksgiving) and I always loved it. It was the first dish I ever cooked for Eric when we were dating. He liked it too and thought I was such a good cook. I have since changed the recipe slightly – adding mushrooms, making the sauce from scratch vs. using a can of cream of chicken.

I always wondered where the name came from, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. Tetrazzini is an American dish usually involving a non-red meat, mushrooms, and almonds in a butter/cream and Parmesan sauce flavored with wine or sherry, over spaghetti. More specifically, tetrazzini tends to include a diced fowl, seafood, or another non-red meat, served with mushrooms over spaghetti or another thin pasta, with a thickened butter and cream-based sauce. The sauce is generally flavored with wine or sherry and well-cooked stock vegetables such as onions, celery, and carrots. It is served hot, often garnished with lemon or parsley, and topped with almonds and/or Parmesan cheese.

The dish is named after the famous Italian-born opera star Luisa Tetrazzini. It is widely believed to have been invented ca. 1908-1910 by Ernest Arbogast, then chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California, where Tetrazzini was a long-time resident. However, other sources attribute the origin to at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City.

There is no universal standard for the dish, so various parts are missing or substituted in various recipes. For example, another kind of nut, or different hard cheese. The name is often expanded to describe the specific protein used (e.g. Chicken Tetrazzini).

Chicken Tetrazzini

  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti, vermicelli, or linguine
  • 3/4 c celery, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 1 2/3 c chicken broth (recommended: Pacific Organic Free Range Broth)
  • 1 1/4 c milk
  • 2 c shredded chicken (2-3 breasts)
  • 1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 6 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 c fresh Parmesan, grated

Cook pasta 3 minutes less than according to package instructions. Saute onion and celery in 2 Tbs butter until onion is tender and translucent, approximately 8 minutes. Add bell pepper, mushrooms and garlic. Saute for an additional 4 minutes. Set aside in a mixing bowl. In the same pan, melt 4 Tbs butter. Whisk flour into butter. Whisk broth, slowly, into butter mixture. Simmer until thickened. Slowly whisk milk into broth mixture. Stir in chicken and seasonings. Pour mixture into mixing bowl with vegetables. Add pasta and cheeses. Stir to combine. Place casserole in a greased 9×13 inch pan. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes, until cheeses are melted and casserole is bubbling.

Freezer Tips: Want to freeze this recipe? Line the casserole dish with foil. Pour in the unbaked casserole. Place the entire dish in the freezer until casserole has frozen solid, then lift the foil (and the casserole) out of the pan. Wrap tightly with foil and plastic wrap. When ready to bake, unwrap the casserole and thaw in the dish you plan to bake it in. When thawed, bake according to recipe directions.