By Cassie Johnston
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Ready in 1 hour, 30 minutes
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This is one of those recipes that I have a hard time believing isn’t on my blog anywhere already. It’s a favorite cold-weather comfort food in our house, and it’s somehow has missed the prying eyes of the blog up until this point. In fact, when I told Craig I was photographing this for the blog the other day, he said, “Wait, Chicken Tetrazzini isn’t on your blog yet? How is that?” And then we proceeded to go through other classic dishes in our house that somehow aren’t on here yet (Mexican Bean Salad, I’m looking at you).
I love this recipe so much not because it’s quick to make (it certainly isn’t), but because it makes so much. Logically, I know I could double or triple almost any casserole recipe out there and make extras to stash in the freezer, but I tend to forget to do that until I’m deep in the midst of cooking. But with Chicken Tetrazzini, the freezer-cooking aspect of it is built-in. When I make Chicken Tetrazzini, I make extra, and that’s that.
This recipe serves a crowd—probably 12-16 people if you cooked it up all at once, but since we’re a family of two (for now!), we freeze the extras. This recipe will make four 8×8 square pans (which is a good amount to serve to four people with a side salad and some crusty bread or two people for dinner, with leftovers for lunch) or two 9×13 pans (each enough for 6-8 hungry, hungry hippos). Having a few extra Chicken Tetrazzinis in the freezer is like having a well-stocked food savings account.
Those extra casseroles are also perfect for giving away. This dish makes a great neighbor casserole. You know, the kind that you pack up with a bagged salad, a loaf of French bread and deliver to the very grateful family down the block who just had a baby. Or to the busy single Dad who just broke his leg. Or to the family that is mourning the loss of a beloved grandparent. It’s not fancy. It’s not gourmet. It’s not even very pretty. But it is creamy, carb-y, and flavorful. It’s giving someone the gift of few relaxing minutes in front of a home-cooked meal without the work. And that’s a gift that a lot of folks will cherish. And they don’t even have to know that you just pulled it out of your freezer.
If you’ve never had Chicken Tetrazzini, it sounds Italian, but it’s really not (although, it is named after an Italian opera singer, Luisa Tetrazzini). It’s a good ole American casserole invented at the beginning of the 20th century. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like Chicken Tetrazzini (although, I suppose if you’re a mushroom-hater, this isn’t the dish for you). It’s like if you combined chicken and dumplings with the best chicken fettucine alfredo you’ve ever had and then baked it all under a crunchy layer of breadcrumbs. Yum!
Traditional tetrazzini is usually a pretty heavy dish, packed with heavy cream, a bucketload of cheese, a bunch of butter, and white pasta, but it’s an easy one to lighten up. I cut back on the butter, leave out the cream, go light on the cheese, and sub in whole grain pasta. It’s still not a light dish, but it’s now a more reasonable weeknight dinner—especially when paired with a nice side salad. You could easily go diet-overboard on this recipe and use non-fat cheese and sub in spaghetti squash for the pasta, but I, for one, believe that even lighter comfort food should still be comfort food. And that means using some real cheese and butter (and for the love of all things holy, actual pasta). You’d be amazed at what kind of decadence you can get from just two tablespoons of butter!
Chicken Tetrazzini is freezer-friendly and perfect for sharing with neighbors and friends who may need a little comfort food.
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This looks super tasty.. all except those mushrooms! It’s a texture thing for me since I don’t mind the flavor at all.
Any suggestions on what I might substitute for the mushrooms? Just leave them out and don’t add anything else?
Also, would love to see your tuna noodle casserole too.
Wow, you’ve totally taken me back to my first year of marriage!! I used to make chicken tetrazzini every time we had company over. It was definitely one of those meals I knew I could count on everyone liking. I don’t know what happened, but I haven’t made it years. I think I’ll be adding this into the rotation this week! I love your recipe and look forward to trying it. It helps that a fully cooked roasted chicken is available on every street corner over here (Kuwait), making it that much easier. :)
My favorite casserole is baked ziti from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything. He has two versions, one with mushrooms and mozzarella, and one with kalamata olives and goat cheese. (We usually make the second one.) I think he also has a meat-based one with sausage. It takes about 45 minutes to get it on the table, makes a large 9×13 pan so it feeds a crowd, and is delicious!
I admit to the guilty pleasure of the “original” tuna and green bean casseroles…the ones with the cream of mushroom soup and the famous canned onions. I don’t make them often, but when I do, I thoroughly enjoy them.
I’ve actually never made chicken tetrazzini. How is that? This looks like a great recipe to help change that!
Cultural differences strike again! Here a casserole is a stew that you cook in the oven, chicken tetrazzini would be a pasta bake, I love how we take the same words and do something completely different to them! Although now I think about it, I’m wondering if all mixed food cooked in a oven would once have been called a casserole (as opposed to bread or cake)and we lost that use of the word and American English kept it. I pretty much love all pasta things baked in an oven, I’ve never had tetrazzini before so I’m adding the recipe to my list!
I’m planning to make vegetable tetrazzini this week (a recipe which should be on my blog as well but isn’t)…my recipe is much simpler than this one, but probably isn’t quite as good. The addition of the wine and mushroom sauce sounds awesome! I’d never heard of tetrazzini until I met my husband but it’s one of his favorite things. Thanks so much for sharing!
Fish pie! Perfect on a cold day. 1 pound of white fish in a creamy cheese sauce loaded with carrots, onion, mushrooms, peas, and seasonings, topped with garlic mashed potatoes. 40 mins from start to table. Best with a crunchy green salad :-)
I’m always on the lookout for great freezer meals, and your recipes always make me happy. Thanks for the post!
I just made the double batch. Sure wish I’d had 4 8″ square pans so it would serve our family of 4 longer. Next time, that’s what I will do. Just a caution: I love chopping veggies… but the prep alone took me 95 minutes and I’m too tired to even make a side dish… Be warned – labor intensive. It’s cooking now and I’ll know more in 30 minutes!
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