The original Tetrazzini was one Luisa Tetrazzini, an Italian opera star. Legend has it that a chef at a hotel invented this dish in her honor, sometime between 1908 and 1910. Since then, it’s evolved in many ways, but remains at its roots a creamy pasta casserole with mushrooms and a non-red meat. This version is mine, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking your own idea and running with it. There are so many possible variations on a recipe like this!
This tetrazzini is a delicious, comforting standby in our house. We have it at least a couple times a year, taking advantage of wonderful Greenberg smoked turkey. These birds are fantastic — and they’re available all year. Get yourself one! You won’t regret it. And don’t throw away the skin and bones — use them to make a delicious smoked turkey stock.
Now, I won’t kid you about this. This recipe makes a MESS. You need a couple-three pots and skillets and then a baking pan on top of it. But oh, it’s a tasty mess. And that’s what dishwashers are for, right?
No smoked turkey? No problem. You can make this just as easily with roast turkey or chicken, though it won’t have the wonderful smokey flavor. As for the mushrooms, plain button works fine, but if you’ve got access to some of the more exotic mushrooms, they are delicious as well. The pictures below are of a tetrazzini made with a mix of oyster and button mushrooms.
For the shape pasta, I’d advise something with a good shape to hold the sauce. I usually use fusilli, because they’re easy for me to find in whole-wheat.
This recipe can take a lot of time if you don’t organize your activities well. I’ve tried to indicate the quickest way to put it together in the recipe, but it does require a good handle on kitchen multi-tasking.
If you’re uncomfortable with that, go ahead and do the various pieces (pasta, mushrooms, sauce) separately from each other.
Smoked Turkey Tetrazzini
- 2 c. smoked turkey, chopped
- 1/2 lb. whole-wheat shape pasta
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 package sliced mushrooms (or more to taste)
- 1 Tbsp. each butter and olive oil
- white wine (just a splash will do)
- thyme, salt, and pepper to taste
For the Sauce
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 c. smoked turkey stock
- 1 c. half-and-half
- additional stock to thin, if necessary
- Nutmeg, paprika, salt, and pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese and paprika for topping
Preheat the oven to 350F. Set a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Spray a 9×13″ baking pan with cooking spray, and set aside.
While the oven and water are heating, melt 1 Tbsp. butter with 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet. Add the chopped onion and 2 cloves minced garlic, and saute until transparent. Add the mushrooms and thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook until the mushrooms are tender. Near the end of the cooking time, splash in a bit of white wine. Let cook to reduce the liquid so that the mixture is moist, but not soggy. Reserve the mushrooms, placing them in a large bowl.
Along about this time, the water has probably come to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Make a blond roux with 1 Tbsp. butter, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and 3 Tbsp. flour. Stir carefully and do not allow it to burn. When it is a nice blond color, add the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic, nutmeg, paprika, salt, and pepper.
Saute briefly, then slowly add 1 c. of smoked turkey stock, whisking constantly. Once the turkey stock is incorporated, slowly add 1 c. half-and-half. Allow to simmer for a few minutes to come to full thickness, stirring regularly and adding more turkey stock to thin as necessary.
It should look like this. Nice and smooth and creamy and delicious. Taste-test!
Check the pasta occasionally while you’re making the sauce. When it’s ready, drain it and toss it in the big bowl with the mushroom mixture.
When the sauce is ready, toss it and the chopped smoked turkey with the mushroom-pasta mixture.
You can serve this with a green salad, or roasted broccoli, or pretty much any other green veggie you’d like. Broccoli raab’s bitterness would complement the creaminess of the tetrazzini nicely. Enjoy!