Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Inspired by an Italian soprano, this dish makes the tastebuds sing!
Luisa Tetrazzini was a famous Italian opera singer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A dish was created in her honor around 1910 that featured all sorts of ingredients including poultry, seafood, mushrooms, butter, and cream. It is unarguably an American creation but there is much disagreement about where exactly it originated and what was in it. Whether it was first imagined at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco or the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, no one knows for sure. Many versions have been made, which makes it nearly impossible to identify which iteration is the definitive Tetrazzini, but spaghetti is usually the pasta of choice and turkey is often the poultry, making this a classic Thanksgiving leftover makeover dish. This version features fettuccine, as well as poached chicken, shiitake mushrooms, sage-infused cream, Pecorino Romano cheese, and herbed fresh breadcrumbs.
Essential equipment: cutting board; chef's knife; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; medium saucepan with lid; large and deep sauté pan; food processor; rubber spatula; wooden spoon; large saucepan or stockpot; colander or strainer; tongs; spoon
1 pound chicken breast 4 slices fresh bread, such as challah, brioche, or semolina
3 thyme sprigs (stems discarded)
1 rosemary sprig (stems discarded)
¼ cup packed parsley leaves
16 fresh sage leaves, divided
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
1 garlic clove, finely minced
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound fettuccine kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Begin by poaching the chicken breast. Place the breasts in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower the heat and cover. Poach the chicken for 15 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove the chicken from the liquid and cool for 20 minutes on a cutting board. Then cut the chicken into ¼-inch dice.
2. Next, prepare the seasoned bread crumbs. Tear the bread slices into large pieces and place in a food processor. Add the thyme leaves, rosemary leaves, parsley leaves, and six of the sage leaves. Pulse until a fine crumb forms. Set aside.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a large sauté pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the butter is melted add 2 tablespoons olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Stir in the herbed breadcrumbs and mix well to combine. Sprinkle with salt and cook over medium to medium-high heat until crisped and golden brown, about 5-7minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
ILOC tip: use any extra breadcrumbs to make baked chicken or eggplant parmesan. Since they are already toasted in fat, they are the perfect coating for baked-not-fried foods.
4. Now prepare the sage cream. Place the heavy cream in a small saucepan along with 10 sage leaves. Place the pan over medium heat. Once the cream comes to a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 20 minutes to steep. After 20 minutes, remove the sage leaves and discard. Set aside the pan of cream.
5. While sage cream steeps, prepare the shiitake mushrooms. Halve then slice the shiitake mushrooms to ¼-inch slices. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to a large and deep sauté pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the butter is melted add 2 tablespoons olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Stir in the garlic and mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms become lightly browned. Set aside.
6. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to the instructions on the box. Drain in a colander and set aside while finishing the sauce.
7. To complete the dish, return the pan with the mushrooms to medium heat. Add the sage cream to the mushrooms (discard the sage leaves). Mix well to coat and bring to a simmer. Once gently bubbling, add in the cheese and stir. Then add the diced chicken and mix well to combine. Season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
8. Shake off any excess water on the pasta, then add it to the pan with the cream, mushrooms, and chicken, tossing well to coat.
ILOC tip: do not rinse the pasta in cool running water once drained because, in part, the pasta is immediately being added to the sauce. Also, the starch on the pasta helps the cream adhere to it.
9. Divide the fettuccine among four shallow bowls, sprinkle generously with the herbed breadcrumbs, and serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.