At some point in life everyone needs a good casserole.

Chicken Tetrazzini. Fun to say…be sure to roll your “r”…tasty to eat.

Chicken and noodles and cheese and some veggies and creamy sauce and cheese and crunchy topping and cheese.

Helpful Hint – this is also a great dish to make with leftover turkey!

Here’s what you need:

Chicken, onion, garlic, red bell pepper, peas (frozen are fine), mushrooms, milk*, cream*, white wine, chicken broth (not pictured, sorry) butter, flour, linguine pasta (I’m using wheat pasta), Pecorino Romano cheese, dried thyme, salt & pepper, and olive oil (not pictured).

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*A few notes about the ingredients pictured above — Usually I would use whole milk but since I only had skim milk on hand I added a little heavy cream to thicken things up. If you have regular milk, you won’t need the cream. Unless you want the cream anyway. Who am I to deny you the right to heavy cream?

Frozen peas are just fine. Love them and add them to everything. They’re also good when you smash your finger and need a quick ice pack.

I already had 3 chicken breasts that I cooked for another recipe. Since it takes the same amount of time to cook 5 chicken breasts as it does to cook 2 get a big package at the store and cook them up. You can make pasta, enchilladas, chicken soup, chicken salad.  You get the idea. I’ll stop before I start sounding like the Forest Gump of Chicken.

If you don’t have pre-cooked chicken or turkey lying around, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up. Drizzle the chicken breasts with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes until they are golden brown and the juices in the chicken run clear.

Let the chicken cool so you don’t burn off your fingers. Then remove the skin and pull the meat away from the bones. This really is MUCH easier if your chicken is cool or even cold right out of the fridge.

Dice the chicken into bite sized chunks and set aside in a HUGE mixing bowl.

Just try to say no to this face. Give up and give Henry a bite of chicken.

Chop up a large onion

And some mushrooms

And a red bell pepper (My mom uses jarred diced pimentos in her tetrazzini so if that’s your preference, go for it.)

Put about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet….just enough to cover the bottom but not make a big puddle.

Add the onions and saute over medium heat until they are starting to get tender but not browned.

After the onion has had a few minutes head start, add the mushrooms and the red bell peppers.

While the veggies cook, smash, peel and chop up 4 or 5 cloves of garlic.

When the veggies are beginning to soften and the mushrooms have released their liquid (about 5 minutes of cooking), add the garlic to the pan.

Cook for another minute or two to soften the garlic then add the veggies to the chicken in the big mixing bowl.

On to the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it reaches a good rolling boil, add a handful of salt to season the water.

Two tricks to good pasta – use a bigger pot than you think you need and don’t be afraid to salt the water.

Add the pasta and cook about 8 minutes until tender but still firm to the bite. The pasta will continue to cook when the casserole is in the oven so it’s better to undercook it a bit at this point.

Depending on the brand of pasta you use, your box may contain anywhere from 3/4 to 1 pound of pasta. I just cook whatever is in the box and adjust the sauce with pasta water if things get too thick.  So, before you drain the pasta, reserve a cup of the starchy cooking liquid.

Drain the pasta and add it to the big bowl of chicken and veggies.

I’m using wheat pasta here because it’s a little bit healthier  and higher in protein than regular pasta. I also like the more robust, nutty flavor of the wheat pasta. Regular pasta works too…just choose a pasta that is long and thin like linguini or fettuccine.

On to the creamy sauce. Melt 1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) of butter in the skillet or pan you used for the veggies.

Add 1/3 cup flour to the butter and stir to make a roux or thickener for the sauce.

Cook the flour, stirring so it doesn’t brown or burn for a few minutes to fully incorporate the flour into the butter.

Add 1/2 cup white wine and stir or whisk to remove any lumps.

Add 1 cup of milk and continue to whisk and stir as the sauce thickens.

Add 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth and stir, stir, stir.

Bring the sauce to a very low boil – nothing too crazy here – just to get it to it’s maximum thickness, then pour the sauce over the big bowl of pasta.

Add 1 cup of frozen peas or more if you’re like me and you really like pasta with peas

Grab your favorite grating device and grate up 1 cup of Romano or Parmesan Cheese. I’m using Pecorino Romano because it is tangy and sharp AND my grocery store always has it AND I can afford it.

Add the cheese to the pasta. Season with salt and pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme. Some red pepper flakes would be nice too if you like things a little on the spicy side.

Give the whole mixture a good stir to combine all of the ingredients with the creamy sauce.

Give it a little taste and adjust the seasonings. Also, if your pasta is too gloppy and won’t stir, you can add a little of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to make things saucier.

Spray a big casserole dish (mine is 9 x 13) with cooking spray and load it up with the chicken tetrazzini. Add more grated Romano cheese (about 1/2 cup) to the top of the casserole to make the delicious crunchy topping.

Some people like to add breadcrumbs to their topping but I like the plain cheese crust.

Make ahead tip! At this point, you can cover the casserole and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to cook. I often make this a day ahead.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until the top is bubbly and golden brown.

Bring back the potluck!

Make a Chicken Tetrazzini today!

Here’s the recipe.

Chicken Tetrazzini

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