Chicken Tetrazzini is freezer-friendly and great for sharing with neighbors and friends who may need a little comfort food.
Ready in 1 hour, 30 minutes
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!Print
Chicken Tetrazzini is freezer-friendly and perfect for sharing with neighbors and friends who may need a little comfort food.
- Cooking spray
- 2 pounds whole grain spaghetti, broken in half
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 large stalks of celery, diced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 36 ounces button mushrooms, sliced, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 8 ounces softened cream cheese
- 2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese (get good stuff, this is where a lot of the flavor comes from)
- 2 large chicken breasts, cooked and cut into small bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 350°. Spray either four 8×8 baking pans or two 9×13 baking pans with cooking spray, set aside.
- Fill a large stockpot with water, bring to a boil and cook spaghetti, stirring frequently, until just shy of al dente. You want it a little bit crunchy still as it will soften in the oven. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta cooks, melt the butter with the olive oil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add in the onion, garlic, celery and red pepper flakes, and cook until veggies are tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add half of the mushrooms to the onion mixture, sprinkle on half the salt, then repeat with remaining mushrooms and salt. Cook until mushrooms have softened and released the majority of their liquid, about 15 minutes.
- Add in the wine to the mushrooms, and then stir in the flour until the flour is incorporated. Add in the broth, thyme, sage, parsley, pepper, basil, and nutmeg.
- Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and cooked chicken. Once cheese is melted, stir in the cooked spaghetti, a handful at a time, until well-incorporated.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared baking pans. Sprinkle tops with breadcrumbs.
- To bake immediately: Bake casserole in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.
- To freeze for later: Let casserole cool to touch on the counter, then wrap tightly in a layer aluminum foil and plastic wrap (I like using two layers to protect from freezer burn). Label and freeze. Use within 6 months for best results.
- To bake frozen casserole: Thaw casserole overnight in fridge, then bake covered in 350° oven for 45 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.