It is the dead of winter and you are in need of something warm, comforting and carb-y. And nothing hits all those notes like a good chicken tetrazzini casserole.
It snowed 10+ inches here Saturday and pretty much all day Sunday. And I would be lying if I didn’t say I love it a little bit (at least through January). I mean I have lived here my entire life, so I must like it, right? I am a quintessential midwest girl and I don’t care – I love it. And I love a good casserole, and homemade ones WITHOUT canned, condensed cream soups – REAL HOMEMADE – are always the best.
What is chicken tetrazzini?
Basically it is chicken with mushrooms, a béchamel white sauce tossed with pasta and baked in a casserole dish with breadcrumbs and parmesan topping. The top gets all crispy and crunchy, while the inside is creamy, cheesy and delicious. Tetrazzini if often times made with turkey, and this chicken tetrazzini recipe is certainly interchangeable with turkey. And while we are nowhere near the time for this, I will say this is an excellent recipe for post-thanksgiving turkey leftovers.
What do you need for this chicken tetrazzini recipe?
- Pasta. I use a penne style noodle that is thicker and able to hold onto all that delicious sauce.
- Chicken. I used a good ole store-bought rotisserie chickens. Sometimes those things are the sh-t and just what I need in a pinch. Feel free of course to use left over chicken you already have, or to quick cook some chicken breasts.
- Sherry. Sherry is my wine of choice in this, and I think it is traditionally what is used. No sherry? No problem. Use vermouth or another dry white wine.
- Mushrooms, shallots or onion, garlic and thyme. These add a nice comforting earthiness to the entire dish.
- Chicken stock, milk and heavy cream. To make a lovely béchamel cream sauce.
- Bread crumbs (I use panko) and parmesan cheese. I will also tell you that when I don’t have breadcrumb for a casserole or really any gratin topping, ritz, club or any kind of butter cracker are AMAZING substitutes – and I def recommend using when you need.
What is bechamel?
Béchamel is a French cream sauce (called one of the French mother sauces) that is in so many things. It is a base for things like macaroni and cheese, lasagna, some soups, and cannelloni. It is also used, as you will see later this week from me, to make glorious cheese sauces for things like NACHOS (stay tuned).
Béchamel is easy enough to make, and is the centerpiece for this chicken tetrazzini casserole. It’s made with a roux (flour and butter), and dairy. For this recipe, I first add a little chicken stock to the roux, cuts the richness (and the calories) a little bit, before adding the milk and cream.
Some tips to make this the best chicken tetrazzini casserole…
- Use a good baking dish or cast iron skillet to bake this. Baking casseroles in a good baking dish gives you that bubbly inside, but it also gives you a the crusty edges in the dish…something I happen to love.
- Use all the sauce, even if it looks like too much. The pasta will absorb a lot of the sauce.
- When you cook the mushrooms, make sure to cook them on a high flame, and use a big ass pan. Here’s why – you want some deep caramelization on those babies, right? That gives you the most bang for your buck flavor, so yes, that’s what you want. To achieve that you need high heat and a bigger cooking space for the mushrooms. Mushrooms give off a ton of liquid when you cook them so the high heat will evaporate the liquid quickly, so the mushrooms don’t steam in their own juices. Using a pan with a large surface area ensures that most, if not all, of the mushrooms are touching the surface of the pan, which ensure good color and caramelization.
- You can totally make this ahead. And by this I mean, you can make the entire dish (unbaked) ahead and put in the freezer. Alternatively, make in the morning or the night before you want to serve, unbaked, and bake it at dinner time. Left overs are great, but left overs can also be frozen for another meal.
- 8 tablespoons butter
- Drizzle of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 rotisserie chicken skin removed, meat pulled
- 1 pound sliced mushroom I used cremini mushrooms, but any mushroom works
- 1 onion finely diced
- 5 cloves garlic finely minced
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup sherry use vermouth or whatever dry white wine you have if you don't have any sherry
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk room temperature
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream room temperature
- 1 cup chicken broth
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- pasta I like penne-style, but use what you like/have, cooked just under what the box says - you want a little bite to it as it will still be cooking in the casserole, try 9 minutes
- 1 cup grated Parmesan use the good stuff, NOT the green topped container in the grocery aisle
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs or regular is fine or butter crackers crushed up
Heat your oven to 400. Grease or butter your best baking dish. Put your pulled rotisserie chicken and cooked pasta in a large bowl.
Melt TWO tablespoons of the butter and a little olive oil (if you want, this keeps the butter from burning) Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and sauté over medium-high heat until the all the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and they get a deep colored caramelization on them, about 15 minutes. Don't move them around a whole lot, but stir a few times while cooking. Add the onion, garlic, thyme, and a little sprinkle of salt, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the sherry and simmer until it is mostly evaporated, this will take about 2 minutes. Add this mixture to the bowl with the chicken and pasta.
In the same pan, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Whisk for about 4 minutes until the roux is a bit colored and smells a little nutty, you want to cook the raw flour taste out of it, but you don't want to burn it. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, whisking the entire time until it bubbles and is super thick. Cook this for about 6 minutes. Add the milk, cream, nutmeg and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the pan and bring to a simmer, you want the mixture to just bubble up, this will take about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1/2 cup of the parm cheese.
Pour your sauce over the chicken, pasta, mushroom mixture and mix to thoroughly combine. Pour everything into the baking dish, making sure to scrape all that luxurious sauce too.
Mix the remaining 1/2 cup of parm cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden browned and the entire casserole is bubbly.
Note: Baking time will be different if made ahead. Bake about 30 additional minutes if made ahead of time and stored in fridge.
Making this chicken tetrazzini casserole? Let me know how you like it! Also always send me any questions you may have, I am happy to help.
Looking for more comfort food dinners? Check out these