Cheesy Chicken Tetrazzini Casserole Recipe: An Easy Budget Recipe Families Love by Ann Marie Patitucci

Cheesy Chicken Tetrazzini Casserole Recipe: An Easy Budget Recipe Families Love

I grew up in a big Italian family with my mom and aunts cooking a variety of Italian foods. As a child, I presumed that my family cooked only traditional Italian dishes. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that some of the dishes were Italian while some were probably Italian American, and there’s a difference! For instance, I visited Rome and Florence with my choir during college and was sorely disappointed when I couldn’t find chicken parmesan on any menu! I’m always delighted to find dishes that I’ve never tasted, and to learn whether they’re Italian, Italian American or simply American.

Chicken tetrazzini is a good example. My mom never cooked this for us, and to my knowledge, neither did my aunts. It’s a classic, bubbling pasta bake with juicy chicken, a creamy cheese sauce and garlicy mushrooms. While the name sounds Italian and is considered a pasta bake, my research tells me that there is nothing truly Italian about this pasta bake other than its name. Allegedly it was named for an Italian opera singer, Luisa Tetrazzini, in the early 20th century. Some believe a chef at a U.S. hotel invented this chicken recipe especially for her, and that we’ll never find it in an Italian cookbook, not a “real” Italian one, anyway. Interesting!

The basis of tetrazzini sauce is a béchamel sauce, which is typically made with just butter, flour and milk. However, with this tetrazzini, chicken stock and cream are added for flavor and richness, and of course cheese improves everything! I’m personally more a fan of chicken breasts than chicken thighs, but my husband has long been trying to teach me the error of my ways. He loves chicken thighs and suggested that I use thighs in this recipe because they remain juicy even after being both seared and baked. Of course you could choose to use breast if you prefer; I would certainly understand!

No matter its history, I think the combination of chicken, pasta, cheese and cream were meant to come together for this dish. You could add some sautéed mushrooms to the mix, too. It’s a great one for a weeknight – you’ll only spend 15 minutes prepping it! It’s family friendly, too.

Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6


  • 1 can (10 ounces) cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can (10 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (I prefer low-sodium chicken broth)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 pound boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cooked and cubed or shredded
  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

Here’s how to make it:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, butter, chicken broth, salt and pepper, and garlic powder until combined. Stir in the peas, chicken and spaghetti. Toss together and mix until fully incorporated.
  2. Pour spaghetti mixture into a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated 350-degree F oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes until cheese is melted and casserole is hot throughout.
  3. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley, if desired. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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This is one of those ultimate family friendly recipes for sure.
Elisa Schmitz
This was always one of my favorite casseroles. Love making this after the holidays with leftover turkey, too!

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