Turkey Tetrazzini

So, you overestimated the appetites of your Thanksgiving guests and have half of a giant turkey in your fridge, huh? What to do with all of those leftovers? After a couple of days of Moist Maker sandwiches, there’s not much left to do. No more gravy, no more cranberry sauce, just a boatload of turkey and some leftover stock. So, this year, although I really didn’t grow up eating this, I decided to go for a big dish of Turkey Tetrazzini.

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Now, contrary to the name, this is not even remotely an Italian dish. This is fully an American dish but is named after an Italian opera singer, Luisa Tetrazzini. And I did not try to make this live up to its Italian name. Nope, I’ve stuck to the fully American comfort food aspects of this classic.

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If you do a Google or Pinterest search for Turkey Tetrazzini, you are going to find dozens and dozens of recipes. All are very similar and all are very different. All involve pasta, turkey, and some sort of cream sauce. Many involve mushrooms and some sort of cheese. Some include vegetables, wine or sherry, or nuts of different varieties. So with that said, I just winged it and think I came up with something pretty darn good. Most recipes do call for a spaghetti or linguine or some other long pasta. I would prefer a shorter ribboned pasta (like mafalda or campagnele) so there is more surface area for all of the goodness to cling to. When I made this, I only had a box of penne so I used what I had.

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This is also perfectly good with chicken and would be a great way to stretch a chicken to feed a large crowd.

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Turkey Tetrazzini

  • 12 oz dried pasta
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 8 oz. package button or cremini (sometimes called “baby bellas”) mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 T butter, softened and divided
  • 4 T all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 1 t dried or fresh thyme (I substituted a bit of fresh oregano this time but thyme would be best)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 C warm chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 C heavy cream or half and half
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 3 C cooked turkey, shredded or diced
  • 1 C frozen English peas 
  • 1 C grated monterey jack cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 C panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 C chopped pecans
  • 1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
  • fresh chopped parsley or scallion greens for garnish, optional

Cook pasta in salted water just a few minutes less than package directions (it will continue to cook in casserole). Drain and set aside until ready to use.

While pasta is cooking, preheat oven to 375F and start the “filling” of your casserole.

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, cook chopped bacon slowly over medium heat so that all fat is rendered. Remove crisp bacon with slotted spoon to paper towel to drain. Pour off all but about 2 T of bacon drippings. Add 2 T butter to pot and melt until foamy. Stir in diced onion and cook over medium heat until translucent, about five minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to cook until brown and most liquid evaporated, about five to ten minutes. Stir in 1 T butter, a pinch of salt and pepper, the garlic, cayenne and thyme and cook one minute more. Stir in flour and cook until raw smell is cooked off, maybe a minute or two. Deglaze pot with wine, stirring constantly so that it’s not lumpy. Gradually stir in warm stock a little at a time until a smooth sauce is formed. Stir in cream and simmer about ten minutes until sauce is slightly thickened. Reduce heat to low and whisk in softened cream cheese just a little at a time. Stir in lemon juice (it just brightens in up a little). Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Off heat, stir in cooked turkey, reserved bacon, peas and monterrey jack cheese. When well combined, thoroughly fold in reserved pasta. If it’s not saucy enough, add a little more stock or cream.

Melt 1 T butter in a small bowl and combine with panko, parmesan and pecans. Set aside.

Grease casserole dish with 1 T of butter. Transfer pasta mixture to casserole and smooth top. Sprinkle panko mixture over the top and place in preheated oven. Bake for about 30 minutes or until nice and bubbly. Turn on the broiler for the last minute if you want to top to brown up a little more.

Allow to cool for five to ten minutes. Serve in shallow bowls garnished with a little parsley or scallions for color.

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