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, this recipe used to be made with a couple cans of soup. Below you’ll find an updated version that’s fresh, absolutely delicious, and completely made from scratch. The recipe makes a lot, so you might just have leftovers.

Recipe ingredients:

Labeled chicken tetrazzini ingredients in various bowls.

Ingredient notes:

  • Crumb topping: Homemade bread crumbs are best, but you can substitute store-bought.
  • Spaghetti: Any pasta will do, but I prefer a long-stranded pasta: linguine, or fettuccine, snapped in half while uncooked for easy serving.
  • Thyme: Feel free to use rosemary, basil, or parsley instead of, or in addition to, the thyme.
  • Season to taste: 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.
  • Chicken: Leftover rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken from the weekend, or poached chicken, shredded or cut up.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Before you begin, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and move the oven rack to the middle position. Get your bread crumb topping ready. To cook the pasta, boil a big pot of salted water and cook until al dente. Rinse the spaghetti with cold water to halt the cooking and set aside.
    Spaghetti noodles being rinsed in a colander.
  2. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the onions.  As soon as they’re softened and translucent, add the thyme and garlic and stir until fragrant.
    Onions and spices being cooked in a silver stock pot.
  3. Then whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly until the flour just begins to brown. Quickly pour in the half-and-half and chicken broth and whisk over the heat until it forms a sauce. This should only take a minute or two.
    Chicken tetrazzini sauce in a silver stock pot.
  4. Once thickened, take it off the heat and stir in the grated Parmesan. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Don’t skip this seasoning, and make sure you taste it so you know you love it.
    Chicken tetrazzini sauce in a silver stock pot.
  5. Afterwards, add the chicken, frozen peas, and the pasta back into the pot. Give it all a good stir so the sauce and cheese covers the noodles. Pour the whole pot into a baking dish or casserole, and scatter the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until the casserole is hot and the breadcrumbs are toasted, about 10 to 15 minutes.
    Unbaked chicken tetrazzini in a white casserole dish.
  6. Once you take it out of the oven, let it stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley, or extra cheese, or a pinch of red pepper flakes, whatever you fancy.
    Chicken tetrazzini in a white baking dish.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Freezing: Just cover, wrap, and freeze it before baking. Thaw overnight in the fridge and bake in a 400 degree oven until hot.

Chicken tetrazzini in a white baking dish.

More perfect casseroles to try:

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.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 336

Ingredients 

For the topping:

  • 2 slices high-quality sandwich bread lightly toasted, or 1 ½ cups bread crumbs (see note 1)
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted

For the filling:

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces spaghetti broken in half (see note 2)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme minced (see note 3)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • hot sauce to taste, optional (see note 4)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken chopped or shredded (see note 5)
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Instructions 

To make the topping:

  • If using bread slices, 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.

To make the casserole:

  • 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.

Notes

  1. Crumb topping: Homemade bread crumbs are best, but you can substitute store-bought.
  2. Spaghetti: Any pasta will do, but I prefer a long-stranded pasta: linguine, or fettuccine, snapped in half while uncooked for easy serving.
  3. Thyme: Feel free to use rosemary, basil, or parsley instead of, or in addition to, the thyme.
  4. Season to taste: 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.
  5. Chicken: Leftover rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken from the weekend, or poached chicken, shredded or cut up.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Freezing: Just cover, wrap, and freeze it before baking. Thaw overnight in the fridge and bake in a 400 degree oven until hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 336kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 19gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 43mgSodium: 349mgPotassium: 387mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 606IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 135mgIron: 2mg
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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