February 8, 2011

Melinda’s Tetrazzini Two Ways! {Naptime Tales from the Trenches}


This is the latest installment of my Tales from the Trenches Series. An ongoing series where friends and readers share their stories and recipes about the great food they fit into family life. We all have tips and tricks to share with each other: when we cook, what we cook and how we cook the delicious food we love to eat. If you are interested in contributing a story and recipe please feel free to contact me. Today Melinda is sharing a great recipe for Tetrazzini she makes for her family. And, speaking of family, I’d like to congratulate my friend Cheryl Tan on the publication of her family food memoir, “A Tiger in the Kitchen.” Today a group of bloggers are celebrating Cheryl’s book and I am thrilled to be included.

Melinda Nelson is the editor of Minneapolis-St.Paul Home magazine and the mother of India, age 13, and Peter, age 16. Given the demands of work, school, snowboarding, skiing and other sports, Melinda loves simple but satisfying entrees that can be made ahead on weekends, refrigerated or frozen and heated on busy weekday evenings. Tetrazzini, a baked pasta dish made with cooked, chopped meat, spaghetti noodles, and a savory white sauce, is a favorite of Melinda’s family and friends.

According to San Francisco legend, the recipe was created at the Palace Hotel by a chef named Ernest Arbogast for Luisa Tetrazzini, an Italian opera singer who lived, Eloise-style, at the hotel for many years. “The original version was extremely decadent, with heavy cream, sautéed mushrooms and sliced almonds, but I prefer a slightly lighter version, made with milk and without mushrooms or nuts,” Melinda says. “You can also find recipes for Tetrazzini that call for canned cream of chicken soup and bouillon, but I’ll never be that short of time!”

Here, Melinda has modified a James Beard recipe to suit both kids and adults. “The ingredients are humble, but the way they all come together is delicious and surprisingly sophisticated,” Melinda says. “Everyone is always amazed at how wonderful it tastes, and they always ask for second helpings.”



Each step can be prepared during naptime, or between drop-offs and pick-ups at the ski chalet. Whether you make Tetrazzini with chicken, turkey, or ham, the resulting casserole (or hot dish, as Minnesotans like to say) is perfect for family suppers or casual dinner parties, served with a green salad, roasted butternut squash or fresh asparagus and warm garlic bread.


Tettrazini Two Ways

adapted from James Beard


Unsalted butter
Chicken stock, chicken broth or turkey broth
Dry sherry or dry white wine (adult version)
Bay leaf
Fresh nutmeg
Salt and pepper
3 – 4 cups cooked chopped or shredded meat (rotisserie chicken, leftover Thanksgiving turkey and Honeybaked ham are all good)
1 pound dry spaghetti noodles
Grated Parmesan
Olive oil
Fresh Italian parsley (adult version)


The Pan

13” x 9” x 2” ovenproof pan or two smaller dishes, greased lightly with butter

Step 1 – The Sauce

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 tablespoons flour

2 ½ – 3 cups chicken stock, chicken broth or turkey broth

1 cup milk

1 bay leaf

Fresh nutmeg

Salt and pepper

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Grown-up Version

Substitute ½ cup dry sherry or dry white wine for ½ cup of the chicken stock


In a heavy saucepan (Melinda loves Le Creuset pans), melt the butter and stir in the flour and cook over low heat until the mixture bubbles gently. Heat the chicken stock and the milk with the bay leaf and nutmeg in a separate saucepan or microwave until warm, and then add gradually to the butter/flour mixture, stirring gently over low heat until thickened. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate the sauce until ready to use, or continue with the recipe.

Step 2 – The Topping

¾ cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

In bowl or jar, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, olive oil and salt and pepper until combined. Cover and set aside, or store in refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

Grown-up Version

Add ¼ cup minced fresh Italian parsley and shake or stir well until combined.

Step 3 – Assembly

Cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted boiling water until not quite al dente, as it will continue cooking as it bakes. Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Add the sauce and the chopped meat. Stir gently, making sure that the pasta is coated with the sauce and the meat is evenly distributed. Spoon mixture into the prepared pans, and cover with foil and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

Step 4 – Baking

If frozen, thaw Tetrazzini in the refrigerator overnight or for 4 – 6 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling around the edges. Serve immediately.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

This is a great dish for both kids and adults and is excellent for serving a crowd!

Naptime Stopwatch

30 minutes.

Naptime Reviews

I can’t wait to make this!

8 Responses to “Melinda’s Tetrazzini Two Ways! {Naptime Tales from the Trenches}”

  1. Marla {family fresh cooking} says:

    I have never had Turkey Tettrazini – looks like a recipe we would all enjoy over here. Thanks for sharing this and Melinda with us 🙂

  2. Susan says:

    Funny Kelsey—Just made this dish last night. We smoke a turkey about once every month in the winter just to make it since TT is a family favorite. I use it as a vehicle for vegetable delivery so peas, mushrooms, sauteed peppers, zucchini etc. are often snuck in–basically whatever I have on hand and want to use up. A nice addition is Trader Joe’s Fried Onion Pieces sprinkled on top. Smoked turkey really does lend a special taste to this dish.

  3. I love tetrazzini — these recipes look great and so easy! Thanks for sharing, Melinda!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Tetrazzini is one of my family’s favorite post-holiday, use-up-all-the-turkey-leftovers recipes. Now that I’m an adult living far from home, it makes me very sad that I typically miss this after-the-holidays meal with my family. Luckily, it’s also a good make and freeze recipe.

  5. Kristi says:

    I made the tetrazzini tonight! Very good. I used tuna because the snow we got this afternoon made a quick run to the grocery store impossible. Still very good though I will look forward to using turkey or ham next time. The sauce is lovely. I usually use the casserole to sneak in vegetables too but not tonight. Really good recipe, Melinda! Thanks for sharing Kelsey. Oh… and I was also going for the choc. chip scones but did not have the heavy cream and snow got in the way of that as well. Looking forward to those this weekend!

  6. Lizthechef says:

    Perfect winter comfort food!

  7. Jwhite says:

    Printing this recipe out!

  8. careful cook says:

    might want to add directions about the breadcrumb topping–you assume that the cook knows what to do with it!!! If a husband is making it, he may not know to add the breadcrumbs before baking…
    re-reading the steps and making sure that all the ingredients are used is helpful; i’ve noticed a number of recipes on this site are missing vital steps.