Chicken Tetrazzini is a classic American casserole dish that combines tender chicken, creamy sauce, and pasta, all baked to perfection. Named after the famed opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini, this dish has been a favorite for generations, known for its comforting flavors and versatility. In this article, we will explore the history of Chicken Tetrazzini, provide a detailed recipe, offer variations and serving suggestions, and answer frequently asked questions. By the end, you’ll be equipped to create this delightful dish at home, whether for a weeknight dinner or a special occasion.

The History of Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazzini: A Timeless Comfort Food

Chicken Tetrazzini is believed to have been created in the early 20th century by an American chef in honor of Luisa Tetrazzini, an Italian opera singer. The dish likely originated in San Francisco, where Tetrazzini often performed. Its combination of rich, creamy sauce, chicken, and pasta quickly made it a popular choice in American households, particularly for entertaining guests and special occasions.

Chicken Tetrazzini Recipe

Creating Chicken Tetrazzini involves a few key steps, including cooking the chicken, preparing the sauce, and baking the casserole. The recipe below serves approximately 8 people.


For the Chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Casserole:

  • 12 ounces spaghetti or fettuccine
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  1. Cook the Chicken:
  • Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 6-7 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and let cool. Once cooled, shred or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  1. Cook the Pasta:
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  1. Prepare the Sauce:
  • In the same skillet used for the chicken, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms, cooking until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes more.
  • Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth, heavy cream, and milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the shredded chicken, thawed peas, and white wine (if using) to the sauce, mixing well.
  1. Assemble the Casserole:
  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Combine the cooked pasta with the sauce mixture, ensuring everything is well coated.
  • Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.
  1. Add the Topping:
  • In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the mozzarella cheese.
  1. Bake:
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the casserole is bubbly around the edges.
  1. Cool and Serve:
  • Allow the Chicken Tetrazzini to cool for a few minutes before serving. This dish is best enjoyed warm.

Variations on Chicken Tetrazzini

While the classic Chicken Tetrazzini is delicious on its own, there are numerous ways to customize the dish to suit different tastes and dietary needs.

Meat Variations
  1. Turkey Tetrazzini:
  • Substitute the chicken with leftover cooked turkey, making this dish a great option for post-Thanksgiving meals.
  1. Seafood Tetrazzini:
  • Replace the chicken with shrimp, crab, or a combination of seafood for a luxurious twist.
  1. Vegetarian Tetrazzini:
  • Skip the meat altogether and add more vegetables, such as bell peppers, zucchini, and spinach, to the casserole.
Sauce Variations
  1. Lighter Sauce:
  • For a lighter version, use half-and-half or whole milk instead of heavy cream. You can also reduce the amount of butter and use olive oil instead.
  1. Spicy Sauce:
  • Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce to the sauce for a spicy kick.
Cheese Variations
  1. Different Cheeses:
  • Experiment with different cheeses, such as Gruyere, Swiss, or fontina, for unique flavor profiles.
  1. Extra Cheesy:
  • Add an extra layer of cheese by mixing shredded cheese directly into the sauce before baking.

Serving Suggestions

Chicken Tetrazzini: A Timeless Comfort Food

Chicken Tetrazzini is a versatile dish that can be served in various ways to suit different occasions. Here are a few serving suggestions:

  1. Family Dinner:
  • Serve Chicken Tetrazzini with a simple green salad and crusty bread for a comforting family meal.
  1. Potluck Favorite:
  • Bring this casserole to a potluck or family gathering. It can be prepared in advance and baked just before serving.
  1. Holiday Meal:
  • Include Chicken Tetrazzini as part of your holiday meal lineup, particularly if you’re looking for an alternative to traditional holiday dishes.
  1. Leftover Lunches:
  • Chicken Tetrazzini makes excellent leftovers. Pack individual portions in airtight containers for easy lunches throughout the week.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I make Chicken Tetrazzini ahead of time?

Yes, you can prepare Chicken Tetrazzini up to the point of baking, then cover and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking as directed.

2. Can I freeze Chicken Tetrazzini?

Yes, you can freeze Chicken Tetrazzini before baking. Assemble the casserole, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bake as directed.

3. What can I use instead of spaghetti?

You can use any long pasta, such as fettuccine, linguine, or even egg noodles. Short pasta like penne or rigatoni can also be used for a different texture.

4. How do I store leftovers?

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat individual servings in the microwave or reheat the entire casserole in the oven at 350°F (175°C) until warmed through.

5. Can I use rotisserie chicken?

Yes, using rotisserie chicken is a great time-saving option. Simply shred the cooked chicken and add it to the sauce as directed.

6. How can I make this dish gluten-free?

To make Chicken Tetrazzini gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta and substitute the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend or cornstarch. Ensure all other ingredients, such as chicken broth, are gluten-free as well.

7. What can I use instead of heavy cream?

You can use half-and-half, whole milk, or a non-dairy alternative like coconut milk or almond milk. Keep in mind that these substitutes may alter the texture and flavor slightly.

8. Can I add more vegetables to the casserole?

Yes, feel free to add extra vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, or broccoli to the casserole. Sauté them with the onions and mushrooms for added flavor.


Chicken Tetrazzini is a timeless comfort food that brings together tender chicken, creamy sauce, and pasta in a deliciously satisfying casserole. With its rich history and versatile nature, this dish is perfect for family dinners, potlucks, and special occasions. By following the detailed recipe and considering some of the suggested variations, you can create a Chicken Tetrazzini that suits your taste perfectly.

Remember, the key to a great Chicken Tetrazzini is using fresh ingredients and allowing the flavors to meld together during baking. Whether you stick to the classic recipe or experiment with different meats, sauces, and cheeses, this dish is sure to become a favorite in your household. Enjoy the process of cooking and sharing this comforting casserole with your loved ones. Happy cooking!

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