Opera star inspires top chefs
Don’t let the name fool you, Tetrazzini not really a traditional Italian dish. It was actually conceived by an American chef in honour of a famous prima donna of the early 1900s.
At the height of her career as a sellout draw at opera houses wherever she performed, soprano Luisa Tetrazzini found herself in legal difficulties and blocked from performing under terms of a contract in New York. She declared,
“I will sing in San Francisco if I have to sing there in the streets, for I know the streets of San Francisco are free.”Luisa Tetrazzini
And, so it was, on Christmas Eve 1910, Tetrazzini serenaded an estimated three-hundred thousand San Franciscans on Market Street under clear skies. The performance was legendary, and her fame helped bring notoriety to this dish.
A dish fit for a prima donna
Chef Ernest Arbogast is often considered to be the first to introduce this dish at San Francisco’s prestigious Palace Hotel where the opera star was a long-term resident. Naming it Tetrazzini for the beloved coloratura soprano was both a fitting tribute and good marketing. However, this dish’s origins are up for debate. Some sources claim that Turkey Tetrazzini first appeared at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City. Regardless of which venue first put this dish on their menu, it appears that this native Italian performer knew good food and inspired the best chefs of her day.
Learn more: Tetrazzini: the diva who inspired top chefs
- 8 oz uncooked pasta (spaghetti, linguini or penne)
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 small onion diced
- ½ red pepper diced
- 1 cup sliced mushroom
- 3 cups cooked chicken breast cut into bite sized cubes
- 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ cup dry sherry, or Marsala white
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp thyme
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (divided)
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Spray a 13×9 inch (3 quart) glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Bring water to a boil in a large pot and add the pasta, broccoli. Add the peas during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Cook until pasta is tender (according to package instructions), drain in a colander.
- Meanwhile, sauté the onions, red pepper in butter until tender. Stir in the mushroom and cook for about a minute.
- Stir in the condensed soup and gradually stir in the milk.
- Add the pasta, chicken, seasonings, soup mixture, wine, parmesan cheese and half of the mozzarella cheese to the baking dish and stir well.
- Top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Allow to stand for about 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley and extra parmesan cheese