Turkey Tetrazzini Casserole (or Chicken)

by Sally on November 26, 2011 · 8 comments

in Chicken & Turkey, Holiday Dishes, Pasta, Thanksgiving

Turkey Tetrazzini is an American classic and a favorite dish to make with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  Good thing it works with chicken too, because this comfort food casserole is something you’ll want to make more often than just after Thanksgiving. It turns leftover turkey or chicken into a satisfying dinner.

Updating the Classic

Classic recipes are filled with butter, heavy cream and white pasta. While these versions might taste good, I wanted a healthier dish to fit with today’s healthier eating preferences. I switched out the white pasta for whole wheat, made the sauce with whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour, used homemade turkey broth instead of cream and added peas for color and a little extra vegetables. Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, dry sherry and a little nutmeg flavor.

The base for the sauce is called a roux (pronounced roo), a classic combination of cooked flour and fat used as a thickener in sauces. Traditionally white flour is used. I’ve used whole wheat pastry flour instead, giving it a nutty flavor and golden color. For the fat, I’ve combined a little butter with olive oil instead of all butter.

Three Steps, Then Bake

There are three steps to putting this casserole together. Making the sauce, cooking the pasta, and cooking the vegetables to mix with the leftover turkey (or chicken). Toss all of these components together and pour into a casserole, bake, and you have a hearty dinner. Just add a tossed green salad for balance.

Turkey Tetrazzini Casserole (or Chicken)

Classic comfort food, this casserole is made for leftover turkey or chicken. It’s a healthier version using whole wheat pasta and whole wheat pastry flour to thicken the sauce. Instead of a cream-based sauce (a bechamel), I’ve moved to a broth-based sauce. If you make it ahead, it re-heats well. As a note, I prefer to use as many organic ingredients as possible. There are three steps: cook the pasta, cook the vegetables, and make the sauce. Then mix and bake. A tossed green salad is all you need to complete dinner.

Serves: 4


Crumb Topping

  • 1/4 cup (22 grams) toasted breadcrumbs (preferably homemade)
  • 2 tablespoons (18 grams) grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) extra virgin olive oil


  • 1 tablespoon (16 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (26 ml or 24 grams)extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons (40 grams) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 cups (480 ml) rich turkey  or chicken broth (low or no sodium)
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons (12 grams) fresh chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  • 8 ounces (226 grams) whole wheat penne pasta (you can use spaghetti, broken in half)
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced medium
  • 8 ounces (226 grams) fresh mushroom, cleaned, stemmed, and sliced thick
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 4 cups (480 grams) diced cooked turkey or chicken
  • 1/2 cup  (70 grams) peas (thawed if frozen)


  1. Mix toasted breadcrumbs, cheese and olive oil in a small bowl and set aside. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Note – using a pan with sloping versus straight sides is easier when whisking. When butter and oil are bubbly, add the whole wheat flour and whisk together, cooking one minute to remove the raw flour taste.  Slowly add the broth, whisking to incorporate and cook until it starts to thicken. When it’s ready it will coat the back of a spoon and you’ll be able to draw your finger through it.
  3. Off the heat, stir in the cheese, dry sherry, thyme, nutmeg and lemon juice. Season with a little salt and pepper.  Set sauce aside.
  4. Bring water to a boil in a 4-5 quart pan. Add a tablespoon of kosher or sea salt to the water; add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  5. While pasta is boiling, cook the onions in olive oil over medium to medium-low heat in a saute pan or skillet. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the mushrooms. Stir and cook the mushrooms until they are are browned and most of their moisture is gone. Stir in the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Stir in the turkey (or chicken) and peas.
  6. In a large bowl, mix the cooked pasta together with the sauce, vegetables and turkey (or chicken). Spray a medium casserole, about 1 1/2 – 2 quarts with non-stick spray and pour the pasta mixture in. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and bake until hot and crumbs are golden on top.

Note – if your topping starts to brown too quickly, cover with foil when it’s golden and continue to bake until the casserole is 160-165 degrees internally, about 25-30 minutes overall. Let the casserole sit for a few minutes, then serve.

Other helpful links:

Chipotle Turkey Pozole, from Simply Recipes

Leftover sweet potatoes? Here’s a recipe for sweet potato pound cake from The Urban Baker

All-Clad 3 quart saucier pan, a nice pan to make sauces and for other uses, on Amazon

Whole wheat pastry flour is a nice addition to your pantry. It’s available from King Arthur Flours and Bobs Red Mill and available at many stores. It keeps a long time stored in the freezer.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 susan November 27, 2011 at 8:42 am

this sounds amazing. I am printing this out asap and putting it on my weekly meal plan for this week! xx


2 Sally November 27, 2011 at 9:58 am

Please let me know how it turns out for you Susan. It’s a little work with all of the steps, but none of them are difficult. Good to get your prep done. You could even do the vegetable part ahead, refrigerate, then bring it to room temp before you mix it all together, then bake. You can also probably get 5 servings out of it, especially if you add a salad.


3 Debbie November 27, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Sally, I’m putting this on the menu for tomorrow. Since we went out of town for Thanksgiving, I don’t have any leftover turkey, but I do have pheasant and the stock I made from the carcasses. Pheasant Tetrazzini!


4 Sally November 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Wow! That should be something! Please let everyone know how it comes out!


5 Twin Tables January 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm

My sis and I agree that although we love Turkey Tetrazzini, it isn’t exactly healthy. We can’t wait to try your version as we froze some turkey after the holidays. We have a version too. It isn’t quite the casserole that you made but it was really darn tasty! :) http://www.twin-tables.com/2011/11/turkey-tetrazzini.html. Great site! This is my first time here!


6 Rick April 9, 2014 at 1:44 pm

I don’t understand why anyone would put nutmeg in a white sauce. I have tried it and I can’t stand it there. I can’t even finish my plate.


7 Sally April 9, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Rick, if you don’t like nutmeg, just leave it out. No problem. It’s a pretty classic combination. My mom thought like you did. I happen to love it in white sauce! To each their own :)


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