Chicken Tetrazzini

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Chicken Tetrazzini is made with creamy béchamel sauce, tender chicken, and pasta, all baked under a crunchy crumb topping.  This simple casserole is ready in under an hour or can be made ahead or frozen.

Chicken tetrazzini in a white baking dish.


 

A classic chicken casserole with American roots, Chicken Tetrazzini used to be made with a couple cans of cream of chicken soup or cream of mushroom soup or some sour cream.

Below you’ll find an updated version that’s fresh, absolutely delicious, and completely made from scratch. Instead of canned soups, make a delicious cream sauce with fresh garlic and thyme flavors. Tasting the sauce for seasonings before adding the cooked pasta is essential for a successful pasta bake.

This easy Chicken Tetrazzini recipe makes enough to feed a crowd or have generous leftovers. Or, make one ahead of time and pop it in the freezer for a glorious future meal.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for chicken tetrazzini.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Bread: Or substitute 1 ½ cups bread crumbs for the sliced, toasted bread. Combine with the butter as directed in Step 1.
  • Salt and pepper: If you don’t season the sauce before you add back the noodles, your casserole will be bland! Taste the sauce and season it until you love it. Now’s a good time to add hot sauce or red pepper flakes if that’s your thing.
  • Spaghetti: Any pasta will do, but I prefer a long-stranded pasta: linguine, or fettuccine, snapped in half while uncooked for easy serving.
  • Chicken: Leftover rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken from the weekend, or poached chicken, shredded or cut up.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Tear the slices into 2-inch pieces. In a food processor, process the pieces until finely ground. In a small bowl, add bread crumbs and melted butter and toss until evenly coated. Set aside in a large bowl.
A food processor full of bread crumbs.
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon kosher salt to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 to 9 minutes. Drain well and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
Spaghetti noodles being rinsed in a colander.
  1. Return the same large pot to medium-high heat and melt butter until foaming. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
Onions and spices being cooked in a silver stock pot.
  1. Stir in flour and cook until golden, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Whisk in broth and half and half. Bring to a simmer and continue to whisk until sauce thickens, about 1 minute longer. 
Chicken tetrazzini sauce in a silver stock pot.
  1. Remove the mixture from heat and whisk in Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce if desired. Do not skip this step or your casserole may be bland!
Chicken tetrazzini sauce in a silver stock pot.
  1. To the pot with sauce, add cooked pasta, chicken, and frozen peas, and toss to combine. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with breadcrumb topping. 
Unbaked chicken tetrazzini in a white casserole dish.
  1. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping has browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.
Chicken tetrazzini in a white baking dish.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This Chicken Tetrazzini casserole recipe makes about 2 quarts of casserole, enough for 8 servings, 1 cup each.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: This casserole can be made up to two days ahead. Assemble it, pour it into the baking dish, but don’t add the breadcrumbs or bake. Instead, wrap it up and store it in the fridge. add the breadcrumbs when ready to bake.
  • Freezer: Just cover, wrap, and freeze it before baking. Thaw overnight in the fridge and bake in a 400 degree oven until the temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • Pasta: I love long spaghetti noodles in this Chicken Tetrazzini recipe, but you can use penne, rotini, or your other favorite pasta shape. I dream of a version made with cavatappi!
  • Garnish: Sprinkle your casserole with minced fresh parsley or thyme to make the green of the peas pop.
  • Cheesy: The recipe calls for ½ cup Parmesan cheese, but you can use another cheese in addition to, or instead of, the Parm. Mozzarella cheese, Fontina cheese, and Monterey Jack cheese are some of my favorites.
  • To go: Bake this casserole in the oven-safe insert of a 9×13-inch crockpot and then tote it with you to your family gathering. Bonus, you won’t have to ask your host to keep it warm!
  • Cover with foil to prevent over-browning: Since everyone’s oven is a little different, place a layer of foil overt the casserole to keep the breadcrumbs from burning if needed.
  • More vegetables: This recipe is nothing if not versatile. Sauté some mushrooms alongside the onions, if you like. In place of peas, add a couple handfuls of baby spinach or thinly sliced leeks.
  • Turkey Tetrazzini: Make the exact same recipe but substitute leftover roasted turkey, maybe from Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Chicken tetrazzini in a white baking dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does “tetrazzini” mean?

“Tetrazzini” means prepared with pasta and a white sauce served au gratin (“au gratin” means sprinkled with bread crumbs or cheese, or both, and browned).

What is it called Chicken Tetrazzini?

This dish was created by Chef Ernest Arbogast of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California. In the early 1900s, Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini made her debut there and he named his iconic dish after her.

How do I substitute garlic powder for fresh garlic?

One clove fresh garlic equals about ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic powder. So for this recipe, you can substitute ½ teaspoon garlic powder for the 2 cloves fresh garlic.

More must-make casseroles

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Chicken tetrazzini in a white baking dish.

Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazzini is made with creamy béchamel sauce, tender chicken, and pasta, all baked under a crunchy crumb topping. This simple casserole is ready in under an hour or can be made ahead or frozen.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 8 servings (1 cup each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 336
5 from 11 votes

Ingredients 

For the topping:

  • 2 slices high-quality sandwich bread lightly toasted (see note 1)
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted

For the casserole:

Instructions 

  • Tear the slices into 2-inch pieces. In a food processor, process the pieces until finely ground. In a small bowl, add bread crumbs and melted butter and toss until evenly coated. Set aside.
  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 to 9 minutes. Drain well and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
  • Return the same large pot to medium-high heat and melt butter until foaming. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
  • Stir in flour and cook until golden, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Whisk in broth and half and half. Bring to a simmer and continue to whisk until sauce thickens, about 1 minute longer. 
  • Remove from heat and whisk in Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce if desired. Do not skip this step or your casserole may be bland!
  • To the pot with sauce, add cooked pasta, chicken and frozen peas, and toss to combine. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with breadcrumb topping. 
  • Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping has browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Bread: Or substitute 1 ½ cups bread crumbs for the sliced, toasted bread. Combine with the butter as directed in Step 1.
  2. Salt and pepper: If you don’t season the sauce before you add back the noodles, your casserole will be bland! Taste the sauce and season it until you love it. Now’s a good time to add hot sauce or red pepper flakes if that’s your thing.
  3. Spaghetti: Any pasta will do, but I prefer a long-stranded pasta: linguine, or fettuccine, snapped in half while uncooked for easy serving.
  4. Chicken: Leftover rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken from the weekend, or poached chicken, shredded or cut up.
  5. Yield: This recipe makes about 2 quarts of casserole, enough for 8 servings, 1 cup each.
  6. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 cupCalories: 336kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 19gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 43mgSodium: 349mgPotassium: 387mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 606IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 135mgIron: 2mg
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. A must make! I’m thawing chicken right now. What if, once the sauce has bubbled for a couple of minutes, then you sprinkled the breadcrumbs on top until they browned? That may alleviate the over browning problem without the foil tent.
    That’s how I do cheese toppings that I want stringy but not chewy from browning.
    Me, I’d likely use Panko crumbs for a better crunch. :-)5 stars