Is it time to switch up your dinner routine? This delicious and easy chicken tetrazzini recipe is packed with tender chicken, a creamy sauce, and a perfect blend of flavors. It’s comfort food at its finest.
This is a flavorful twist on my turkey tetrazzini recipe, which is a big hit during the holidays.
Table of Contents
Take your chicken dinner to the next level with tetrazzini. I use lean chicken breasts for quick cooking, but leftover rotisserie chicken works well too. The spaghetti is coated in a creamy white sauce and mixed with the meat and vegetables.
Top the casserole with two types of cheese, and the bread crumbs, then bake until hot, bubbly, and crispy on the surface. Everyone is excited to break into the golden brown crust whenever I make this pasta dish for my family. Serve with garlic bread and a caprese salad for a complete Italian feast.
- Pasta: Use 1 pound of dried pasta; spaghetti is my top choice. Use something easy to mix and not too delicate. Fettucini, bucatini, cavatappi, penni, or rotini also works well.
- Chicken: I use 1 ½ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast. If you prefer dark meat, you can use chicken thighs. When using pre-cooked chicken, you’ll need 4 cups of diced or shredded meat.
- Vegetables: A mix of sauteed mushrooms adds a savory umami taste and meaty texture. Fresh or frozen peas add a pop of green color and sweetness.
- Aromatics: Diced yellow onions and minced garlic add earthiness. Dried Italian seasonings provide a lingering, concentrated herbaceous note. Chopped parsley adds freshness to the dish before serving.
- Roux: A combination of butter and flour creates a paste that helps to thicken the cream sauce.
- Liquid: Chicken broth or stock enhances the poultry flavor. Use heavy whipping cream to make a rich pasta sauce. Whole milk can be substituted for a lighter consistency.
- Cheese: Use shredded mozzarella for a melty cheese texture when balled. Dry, aged parmesan adds a salty and nutty flavor.
- Bread Crumbs: I prefer to use homemade bread crumbs when available. Larger panko can add extra crispiness or plain traditional breadcrumbs for a deeper golden color and subtle crunch.
Cook the pasta
Grab a large pot. For a well-seasoned spaghetti, boil four quarts of water with 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the pasta until al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Leave some chew because it will continue to absorb moisture while the casserole bakes. To stop the cooking process, drain, then rinse with cold water. This will prevent the pasta from becoming mushy.
Cook the chicken
I like using a large Dutch oven, wide braiser, or cassoulet to cook the meat, vegetables, and sauce. Slice the chicken in half lengthwise to create two cutlets. This will cook the thick pieces faster and more evenly, ensuring the chicken stays juicy and tender. Season both sides with salt and pepper to enhance the flavor.
Sear the chicken breasts in hot olive oil until the surface is lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. The pieces should be fully cooked, reaching an internal temperature between 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC). Rest it for 10 minutes, then shred the chicken or cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.
Cook the vegetables
There will be flavorful juices and fond left in the pan from cooking the chicken. Don’t let it go to waste! Cook the vegetables in the same pan. Saute the diced onions in melted butter, followed by the minced garlic and Italian seasonings.
This will mellow out the sulfurous notes and intensify the taste of the dried herbs. Cook the mushrooms to release their moisture and concentrate the savory notes. The mix of vegetables adds dimension to the casserole.
Make the creamy sauce
For a rich and velvety texture, make a simple Mornay sauce. Melt butter and mix with flour until it turns into a blonde-colored paste. The process only takes a few minutes.
Adjust the heat to medium-high heat, whisking in the chicken stock, then heavy cream. This process ensures that the starches in the flour absorb, swell, and thicken the sauce. Now, you can stir in mozzarella and parmesan to make it a cheese sauce.
Toss the ingredients
Now that the sauce is ready, add the spaghetti, chicken, mushrooms, and peas. Toss to combine, distributing all of the lovely ingredients together. You can serve this as is because it’s so delicious. However, if you have a few minutes to spare, turning the dish into a pasta bake takes the flavor to the next level.
Layer the casserole
Grease a 13-inch by 9-inch casserole dish to prevent the pasta from sticking to the sides. Evenly spread the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle additional mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top for a gooey crust. Add crunchy bread crumbs, and it’s ready to bake!
Bake the casserole
Add the casserole to the center of the oven and bake at 375°F (190ºC). After about 30 minutes, the surface will turn golden brown and crisp up. The edges should become hot and bubbly.
If you want a deeper golden color and extra crunch, broil for a few minutes afterward. Be careful; it can burn if not monitored closely! Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, and dig in.
This recipe for chicken tetrazzini is easy to customize! Try these tasty ways to switch up the flavor.
- Chicken: Add leftover shredded chicken, canned chicken, or try poached chicken. Sauteed ground chicken or turkey also works well.
- Pasta: Use other types of pasta like fettuccini, fusilli, bucatini, farfalle, rotini, or cavatappi.
- Sauce: Make the sauce spicier with chili seasoning or cajun seasoning. Add different cheeses like cheddar, smoked gouda, gruyere, or pecorina romano.
- Herbs: Switch out the Italian seasoning for fresh or dried oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, or parsley.
- Vegetables: Add additional vegetables like corn, carrots, zucchini, roasted red peppers, spinach, kale, or sun-dried tomatoes.
Frequently asked questions
If making from scratch, pan-sear the chicken for a quick option. Otherwise, baked or grilled works.
Turkey is a great option, especially if there are leftovers. You’ll need 4 cups of cooked meat. If using seafood, briefly cook the surface, but undercook slightly because it will continue to heat up when in the oven.
Any sturdy pasta that can hold up to mixing in a creamy sauce will work. Fettucini or bucatini for long strands, but avoid angel hair because it’s too delicate. Tubular short-cut pasta like penne or cavatappi are good options.
The pasta can be assembled, covered, then baked within 2 days. If possible, add the bread crumbs right before baking so they are dry and not soggy from sitting in the humid refrigerator environment.
Preventing mushy pasta
To ensure the pasta does not become too soft as it bakes, it’s essential to cook it until just al dente. Look for it to be mostly chewy, with a slightly firm center. Immediately rinse with cold water to halt further cooking. As the pasta bakes in the cream sauce, it will absorb more water, soften, and expand. If too soft before mixing with the sauce, it will have a mushy texture after baking.
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- 4 quarts water
- 5 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, more for seasoning
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, more for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup unsalted butter, divided
- ½ cup diced yellow onion, ¼" dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 pound brown mushrooms, ½" thick slices
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups unsalted chicken stock, or broth
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs, plain or panko
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Heat the oven to 375°F (190ºC).
- Cook the Pasta – In a large Dutch oven or pot, bring the water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and stir to dissolve. Add in the spaghetti and cook according to package directions until al dente, about 9 to 10 minutes.Drain in a colander, and rinse with cool water for about 30 seconds to immediately stop the cooking process. Leave some moisture on the surface to prevent sticking, and set aside.
- Prepare the Chicken – Cut each chicken breast in half horizontally to make two cutlets. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Cook the Chicken – Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil. Once hot but not smoking, add the chicken breasts. Cook until lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 5 to 7 minutes.Transfer to a cutting board and rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Shred or cut in ½” diced pieces. Set aside.
- Cook the Vegetables – Using the same pan to cook the chicken, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat, then add the onions. Saute until fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and Italian seasonings, and saute for 30 seconds.Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook until most of the moisture is released and mushrooms are tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Make the Sauce – Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in the pan. Stir in the flour, and cook until the roux turns golden blonde, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Gradually whisk in the chicken stock, stirring constantly until thickened. Stir in the heavy cream, whisking until a smooth sauce is formed.Turn off the heat. Stir in ½ cup of the mozzarella and ½ cup of parmesan cheese until melted. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if desired.
- Combine Ingredients – Add the pasta, diced chicken, peas, and mushrooms to the pot. Stir to combine.
- Layer the Casserole – Lightly grease a 13-inch by a 9-inch baking dish with olive oil or butter. Spread the pasta mixture evenly in the pan. Evenly sprinkle ½ cup mozzarella cheese, ½ cup parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs on top.
- Bake – Cook until the edges are hot and bubbly and the surface is lightly golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. For an extra crispy and golden brown surface, broil for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Watch carefully for the color change to prevent burning.
- Serve – Garnish with some of the chopped parsley and serve hot.
- Recipe Yield: 16 cups
- Serving Size: 2 cups
- Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Place in a resealable bag in the freezer for up to 1 month, and defrost before using.
- Reheat: Cover and microwave on high for 15 to 30 seconds, stirring in between, until hot. If needed, add a small amount of water to make the sauce creamy.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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