It’s the hearty, humble stuff of church dinners and weeknight-night casseroles.
Named after an Italian opera star, chicken tetrazzini has been a favorite since its supposed invention either in New York or San Francisco in the early 1900s.
Cooks like to make it because it’s inexpensive and easy to throw together. Children love it to eat it because it marries two of the world’s most kid-friendly ingredients — spaghetti and chicken.
This version from Brad McDonald’s “Deep South: New Southern Cooking” gives the dish a modern spin with chili peppers and Muenster cheese instead of Parmesan.
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The result is a bit on the spicy side, but it’s a gentle burn on the tongue, more of a singe than an outright fire.
FOR THE SAUCE
5 ounces milk
5 ounces chicken stock
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 shallot, sliced thin
5 guajillo chili peppers, ends snipped off, seeds discarded
7 ounces Muenster cheese, cut into cubes
FOR THE PASTA
1 pound spaghetti
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced thin
2 green bell peppers, roasted and skinned
4 jalapeno peppers, roasted, skinned, deseeded and diced
1 pound roasted chicken, preferably dark meat
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/2 ounces fresh breadcrumbs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, make the sauce. Put milk and stock in pan with the garlic, shallot and guajillo chili peppers. Bring to boil. Lower heat to just below simmer. While still warm, pour contents of the pan into a blender along with the cheese and blitz to a smooth consistency. Strain through a fine sieve, if you wish; you can skip this step.
Cook spaghetti in large pan of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again well. Toss with green peppers, jalapeno peppers, mushrooms, chicken, lemon juice, and some salt and pepper. Fold in the cheese sauce and transfer to a 9-inch square casserole dish. Cover with breadcrumbs and place in a preheated 400-degree oven. Bake until breadcrumbs are golden brown, then serve.