If you are like me, you bought a turkey that was a little too big for the number of people attending your Thanksgiving feast. And now you have leftovers. Lots of leftovers.
I actually love Thanksgiving leftovers. Having a plate brimming with turkey and the works the day after Thanksgiving is like enjoying the encore after an awe-inspiring concert performance.
But after that encore, its freezer time. The turkey gets chopped or shredded, portioned out in 2 or 3 cup increments, packed into quart size freezer bags and placed flat in the freezer.
Cooked turkey can be stored safely in the freezer for up to four to six months according to what I read on the Butterball Turkey Talk Line. After that, the flavor starts to deteriorate so it is best to use it within that time frame.
Once it is thawed out from its snooze in the deep freeze, that leftover turkey comes in handy for quick dinners like shredded turkey tacos, turkey cobb salad and turkey noodle soup.
One of my favorite uses for leftover turkey is to make a baked Turkey Tetrazzini. A noodle casserole, Tetrazzini is usually comprised of diced turkey, mushrooms and peas in a cream sauce, mixed with spaghetti and topped with parsley and cheese.
I was surprised to learn that Tetrazzini is an American dish that originated in the early 20th century. It is named after Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini who was an international star before coming to America in 1905.
The Beyonce of her day, Tetrazzini earned the highest fees and sold out opera houses and concert halls wherever she performed. She possessed a full, powerful voice and extraordinary vocal ability.
Famous restaurant chefs sometimes named dishes for their prestigious clients. Chicken Tetrazzini is one of those dishes, although it is unclear if it was Chef Pavani at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City or Chef Arbogast of San Francisco’s Palace Hotel that first made the dish to honor Tetrazzini’s performance in their respective cities.
Judging from the photographs and film recordings of her online, I assume Tetrazzini ate her fair share of pasta dishes regardless of who created them. In addition to her being short and stout, Tetrazzini was described by historians as cheerful, lovable and full of zesty personality. I’m now a fan.
While there are several versions of Tetrazzini out there, this week’s recipe is from Taste of Home magazine. The original recipe is named Mom’s Chicken Tetrazzini and calls for rotisserie chicken, but I have subbed in turkey.
It is a delicious way to use up leftover turkey, but what really sends it over the moon are the toppings – bacon and cheese (more yum in every forkful!). I think Luisa Tetrazzini would have approved.
- 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
- 2 teaspoons plus 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 8 bacon strips, chopped
- 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 small green pepper, chopped
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 3 cups coarsely shredded turkey or rotisserie chicken
- 2 cups frozen peas (about 8 ounces)
- 1 jar (4 ounces) diced pimientos, drained
- 1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375°. Cook spaghetti according to package directions for al dente. Drain; transfer to a greased 13×9-in. baking dish. Add 2 teaspoons butter and toss to coat.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Discard drippings, reserving 1 tablespoon in pan. Add mushrooms, onion and green pepper to drippings; cook and stir over medium-high heat 5-7 minutes or until tender. Remove from pan.
In same pan, heat remaining butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth; gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally; cook and stir 3-5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add turkey, peas, pimientos and mushroom mixture; heat through, stirring occasionally. Spoon over spaghetti. Sprinkle with bacon and cheese.
Bake, uncovered, 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.