Turkey tetrazzini casserole 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.
Updating the Classic Recipe
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 add flavor.
Make a Roux: Classic Sauce Thickener
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. You can use a GF flour blend as well.
Three Steps to Make the Casserole
There are three steps to putting this casserole together:
- Make the sauce
- Cook the pasta and vegetables
- Mix with turkey and bake
Just add a tossed green salad for balance and dinner is ready.
Turkey Tetrazzini Casserole
- casserole baking dish
- ¼ cup toasted breadcrumbs preferably homemade, whole wheat or GF
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1.4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 cups turkey or chicken broth low or no sodium
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme leaves
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces penne pasta whole wheat or gluten-free
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ medium onion chopped fine
- 8 ounces fresh mushrooms cleaned, stemmed, and sliced thick
- 2 cloves garlic chopped fine
- 12 ounces diced cooked turkey or chicken about 3 cups chopped
- ½ cup peas thawed if frozen
- Mix toasted breadcrumbs, cheese and olive oil in a small bowl and set aside. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Make the Sauce
- Place the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. 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.
- Off the heat, stir in the cheese, dry sherry, thyme, nutmeg and lemon juice. Season with a little salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.
Cook the Pasta
- 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.
- 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.
Assemble the Casserole
- In a large bowl, mix the cooked pasta together with the sauce, vegetables and turkey (or chicken). Spray a medium casserole, about 1 ½ – 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, 30-45 minutes. Use a digital thermometer and cook until casserole reaches 165°F.
Made this last night and my family of 6, including our daughter's boyfriend (who is afraid of healthy cooking!), loved it. Can't tell it's gluten free pasta and don't miss the cream that I used to use for tetrazzini. Thanks for your work on this site and sharing your expertise with us, Sally. I came across you through the Daniel Plan 🙂
Sally Cameron says
Thanks LJ, Love to hear stories like that! Just don't tell them it's healthy until after the eat it and decide its good! When you try other recipes, please report back. And you there is anything you'd like to see, let me know.
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.
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 🙂
Twin Tables says
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!
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!
Wow! That should be something! Please let everyone know how it comes out!
this sounds amazing. I am printing this out asap and putting it on my weekly meal plan for this week! xx
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.