RECIPE: Chicken Tetrazzini Is All The Winter Comfort Food You Need
A creamy béchamel sauce and a crunchy crumb topping spells seconds.
It’s COLD. I don’t like cold. All winter long, I dream of summer, and all summer long, I dread winter. What can I say? I grew up in Sunbelt states. I’m a hothouse flower.
But … there is one great thing about winter months, and that’s comfort food. Everybody has at least one go-to dish that warms their belly and their heart. Mine is macaroni and cheese, an “abomination” no right-thinking Italian would ever place on the table. The other is Chicken Tetrazzini.
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Two things about Chicken Tetrazzini. I’m 95% vegetarian, and this isn’t a vegetarian dish. Also, in no part of Italy are you going to find pasta with chicken in it. Real Italians don’t do that. Pasta may be served as a primo or first course and chicken as a secondo or second course, but you’re never going to see pasta and chicken performing unspeakable congress together on the same plate. Not here. So don’t go around telling everybody you’re cooking an Italian casserole when you make Chicken Tetrazzini, because Italian it ain’t, and somebody’s going to call you out on it.
Chicken Tetrazzini is, however, delicious, a cornucopia of savory, creamy flavors that will make you feel as though you’ve actually eaten something. Nothing frou-frou about it. So, get ready to fall in love with this wonderful dish.
For the Topping:
2 slices high-quality sandwich bread lightly toasted
2 tablespoons melted butter
For the casserole:
8 ounces spaghetti broken in half
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or gluten-free substitute)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
hot sauce, to taste (I used about a teaspoon, but I’m a lightweight)
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded (I use leftovers)
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
Cut or tear chicken into two-inch pieces. In a food processor, process the chicken until it’s finely ground.
In a small bowl, add bread crumbs and melted butter. Toss until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot or Dutch oven, boil 4 quarters of salted water. Add pasta and cook until al dente, per package directions. Do not overcook. Drain well and rinse with cold water so the pasta doesn’t continue to cook or turn gummy.
In that same large (now empty) pot on medium-high heat, melt butter. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and minced thyme for about 30 seconds.
Stir in flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour in broth and half-and-half, and switch to a wire whisk. Bring to a simmer and continue whisking until the sauce thickens, maybe 1 minute.
Remove from heat. Whisk in Parmesan cheese, and then season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Use a deft hand with your seasonings. Too little, and the casserole will be bland. Too much, and it will be too spicy.
In the large pot with the sauce in it, add the cooked pasta, chicken, and frozen peas. Toss to combine. Pour mixture into a 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with breadcrumb topping.
Baked until the sauce is bubbling and the top has browned, about 10-15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.