Recently I caught an episode of Everyday Italian in which Giada was cooking a meal to serve to her husband and his friends. They were out biking, and “the boys,” as she kept calling them, would be hungry upon their return. So Giada spent the day in the kitchen, standing over the stove, cooking for the boys, and when they arrived she emerged fresh, her hair recently taken down and arranged just so, food in her arms and a very large smile on her face. She laughed when they spoke and applauded as they ate. She was so enthused, so sickeningly sweet, that I almost—almost—lost my appetite. But truth be told, as annoying as I may sometimes find Giada herself, that day I found her chicken tetrazzini irresistible. And so I made it.
This is the type of food I love to eat. Casseroles, one-pot dishes, anything like that. There’s something I love about having a bunch of yummy ingredients combined in one dish. It’s just comforting. As I type this I imagine the future time when my fiancé, who insists that there is no such thing as “comfort food,” will read this post and make a face, but there is such a thing as comfort food, and this is it.
I adjusted the recipe just a bit. This makes a ton of food, so I reduced the recipe somewhat. Plus we don’t like mushrooms, so I left those out. The original recipe is here, and my modified version follows.
adapted from Giada’s Chicken Tetrazzini
8 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 large onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 pound linguine
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
kosher salt, black pepper, and poultry seasoning
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread 1 tablespoon of butter over a 3-quart baking dish. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning—a thin dusting of each on both sides of each breast. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Allow chicken to cool, and then shred or chop into bite-size pieces. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Add 3 tablespoons of butter to the same pan. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it evaporates, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to the bowl with the chicken.
Melt 2 more tablespoons of butter in the same pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, cream, broth, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 10 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes. Drain. Add the linguine, sauce, peas, and parsley to the chicken mixture. Toss until the sauce coats the pasta and the mixture is well blended.
Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a bowl, and to the bowl add the cheese and breadcrumbs. Combine thoroughly and sprinkle the cheese mixture over the pasta. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.