Today’s Chicken Tetrazzini casserole is the perfect comfort food for chilly evenings, filled with chicken (or turkey) and noodles in a luscious creamy sauce that the whole family will love.
Casseroles became an American staple during the Depression when it was necessary to make inexpensive and filling meals. You could feed a large family with a minimum of expensive meats and poultry by combining them with pasta, rice, or potatoes, a few vegetables and a creamy sauce. After the invention of canned soups and other convenience foods, their popularity soared in the 1950s. Macaroni and Cheese, Tuna Noodle Casserole, and Chicken Pot Pies were seen on dinner tables across the nation including in my home.
The story behind this casserole is a fun one. One of the most popular opera singers in Europe and America was Luisa Tetrazzini. On Christmas Eve 1910, Luisa stepped onto a platform in San Francisco and serenaded a crowd of two to three thousand enraptured townspeople. To mark the occasion, a local chef created a concoction of cooked pasta and mushrooms bathed in a creamy sauce and named it for the famous singer. No doubt a similar combination had been created before, but this time with the title of Chicken Tetrazzini, it became a national favorite.
If you want to make this vegetarian, just increase the amount mushrooms, adding some chopped portobello, shiitake, or morels. If you like a spicier style of food, feel free to add in some chiles or hot sauce.
The ingredients of Chicken Tetrazzini are fairly simple, but when combined they create a satisfying and filling meal perfect for parties, weeknight meals, or potluck suppers. The base sauce is a simple white sauce more formally known as Bechamel. This is a foundation for many recipes and one of the first things they teach at culinary school. It can be seasoned in many different ways and is incredibly versatile.
Enjoy this taste of my childhood. I hope this Chicken Tetrazzini brings your family together over the dinner table where you can share what happened during your day. Who knows, this may be the beginning of a new family tradition!
Did you enjoy this recipe? Let me know in the comments, I love hearing from you!
Key Ingredients for Chicken Tetrazzini (or Turkey):
- White wine, bay leaves, peppercorns, onion, carrots, chicken breasts
- Gluten-free pasta, butter, red bell peppers, celery, shallots, garlic
- Mushrooms, thyme, peas, butter, GF flour, chicken stock, cream
- Cheddar, Parmesan, GF panko breadcrumbs, parsley
What is a White Sauce?
This is the common name for a Bechamel sauce, one of the mother sauces in French cuisine. It is a simple roux-based sauce where fat and flour are blended together until smooth and cooked a few minutes, then you whisk in cream or milk and bring to a boil, letting the flour do its job of thickening the liquid. Season with salt and pepper and you have the base for many meals.
If you are using leftover cooked meats like turkey or ham (watch for gluten-free labels) in place of the raw chicken, skip the poaching step and continue the recipe from cooking the pasta.
How to make Chicken Tetrazzini (or Turkey):
- Build the poaching liquid by cooking vegetables and aromatics in water; add the chicken breasts (or turkey) and cook just below a boil for about 12 minutes or until it reaches 160°F
- Remove from the heat and set aside to cool in the liquid; when cool enough to handle, remove from the liquid and cut into small pieces returning them to the liquid to hold until needed
- Cook the pasta to just under al dente – it will finish cooking in the oven; drain in a colander and place in a large bowl then drizzle with some oil, toss, and set aside
- Cook the filling vegetables until soft, stir in the shallots and garlic, then add the mushrooms and thyme; use a slotted spoon to add the ingredients to the bowl with the pasta
- Also add the chopped chicken and peas and add salt and pepper to taste; set aside
- Make a white sauce by melting butter, sprinkle with the flour blend and cook until no longer raw smelling; whisk in the wine and chicken stock and cook, stirring, until smooth and thick
- Whisk in the cream, bring just below a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, 15 to 20 minutes; taste and add salt or pepper if needed
- Pour the sauce over the pasta mixture, tossing until evenly coated, then pour into a greased 9×13-inch pan and top with shredded cheese; in a small bowl mix together the Parmesan, panko, and parsley
- Sprinkle the seasoned breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole and bake uncovered until bubbly and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes; serve hot
To save some time, you can cook the chicken a day ahead and store it in the cooking liquid in the refrigerator. You can also use a rotisserie chicken, leftover turkey from the holidays, or even ham. Be careful that any meat you use is guaranteed gluten-free!
If you want some other delicious ways to repurpose your Thanksgiving leftovers, check out my article from the 19th of November which contains 70+ Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers! It is a remarkable collection of the best recipes from around the Internet.
Recommended Tools (affiliate links; no extra cost to you):
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Instant read thermometer
- Large skillet
- Large bowl
Be careful of the chicken stock if you are using store-bought, many contain gluten. I like Pacific brand. For the pasta, Barilla makes a good spaghetti that holds up to baking and is widely available. For the thickener you can use any 1-for-1 style of gluten-free flour blends (see the following paragraph for more details) or cornstarch (start with 2 tablespoons). For the panko breadcrumbs I like Ian’s brand of gluten-free to give a nice crunchy topping to the casserole.
You can adjust any recipe to gluten-free by using 120 grams of my favorite gluten-free flour blend per cup. This recipe was written using this flour blend. If you are using another brand of gluten-free flour, whisk the mix, spoon it lightly into a measuring cup until mounded, level off the top with a straight edge, and weigh the flour. Use that weight as your standard per cup of that specific flour. Commercial blends such as Pamela’s, Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1, or King Arthur Measure for Measure are all good choices.
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth or more water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- 2 tsp coarse salt
- 1 small onion, peeled
- 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts or turkey breast
- 12 oz gluten-free spaghetti, fettuccine, or egg noodles
- Olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter, divided
- 2 red bell peppers, stem and seeds discarded, finely chopped
- 3 carrots, trimmed, split lengthwise, and finely chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped finely
- 4 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
- 1 lb small mushrooms, ends trimmed, sliced thickly
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 cup frozen peas (no need to thaw)
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup (30 g) gluten-free all-purpose flour (see Note)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine or water
- 2 cups gluten-free chicken broth
- 1-3/4 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1-1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Poach the Chicken: Combine the water, wine, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt and vegetables in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, before adding the chicken. Cook the chicken just below a boil for 12 minutes or an internal temperature of 160°F. Remove from the heat and cool the chicken in the poaching liquid. The chicken will finish cooking gently, leaving it moist and tender.
- When cool enough to handle, remove from the broth and cut into small pieces. Return chicken to the broth until needed for the casserole, straining before using. The chicken can be made a day ahead and stored in its cooking liquid in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
- Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until just under al dente; the length of cooking time will be determined by type and brand of pasta you choose. Remember that the pasta will bake in the oven, so you don’t want to overcook it at this point. Drain in a colander, transfer to a large bowl, toss with a little olive oil so it doesn't stick together, and set aside.
- Prepare the Vegetables: Meanwhile, in a large skillet, combine 2 tbsp of the butter with 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers, carrots, and celery, cooking until softened, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the shallots and garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft and have released their liquid, about 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to add the vegetables to the bowl with the pasta. Stir in the chopped cooked chicken, peas, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Make the White Sauce: In a saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle with the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes until the flour no longer smells raw. Whisk in the wine and chicken stock and cook, stirring, until smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cream and warm to just below a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring regularly, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Assemble the Casserole: Pour the sauce over the chicken, pasta, and vegetables, tossing until evenly coated. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and top with shredded cheese. In a small bowl combine the Parmesan, panko, and parsley, tossing together. Sprinkle the seasoned breadcrumbs over the top. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.
- Recipe Source: The Heritage Cook
You can adjust any recipe to gluten-free by using 120 grams of of my favorite gluten-free flour blend per cup. This recipe was written using this flour blend. If you are using another
brand of gluten-free flour, whisk the mix, spoon it lightly into a measuring cup until mounded, level off the top with a straight edge, and weigh the flour. Use that weight as your standard per cup of that specific flour. Commercial blends such as Pamela's, Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1, or King Arthur Measure for Measure are all good choices.
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