Turkey Tetrazzini

A dish unknown in Italy (and increasingly forgotten domestically). Tetrazzini was named after Italian coloratura soprano Luisa Tetrazzini. James Beard attributed the dish’s creation to a chef in San Francisco, where the Florence-born Tetrazzini resided for many years, but there’s actually no clear evidence of that, and it’s possible it was a New York chef who created the dish.

Two footnotes. First, as Luisa Tetrazzini got older, she was fond of saying, “I am old, I am fat, but I am still Tetrazzini.” I like to remember that when I’m having an off day; even when I’m not functioning at my highest level, when I’m still talented in what I’m doing, the result is usually still worth preserving. I mean, nobody ever complained because they got a mediocre Picasso. I’ve never had a tour guide describe something as “one of van Gogh’s least interesting masterpieces.”

The other note: Tetrazzini was pretty universally loved during her lifetime, but weirdly enough, she did have a rivalry with Australian soprano Nellie Melba, for whom Melba Toast and Peaches Melba (see the card for Peach Melba Parfait) are named.

ksu_folder A family recipe provided by Jennifer Kiel of Washington, DC, from her mother-in-law’s collection, started in Kent, Ohio.


Turkey Tetrazzini

4 cups cream sauce
2 cups grated processed cheese
6 cups cooked spaghetti (12 oz. uncooked)
4 cups boned turkey, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms or toasted almonds (optional)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese; dash paprika

Make cream sauce and blend in cheese. Mix with spaghetti, turkey and mushrooms. Turn into a greased shallow baking dish about 7-1/2″ x 12″. Sprinkle top with grated cheese and paprika. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes or until bubbly and brown.

To save time, you may substitute for the cream sauce 1 10-1/2 oz. can cream of mushroom soup and cream of chicken soup and a blend of one cup turkey stock and milk.

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