Recipe: Ham (or Ham and Turkey) Tetrazzini

Ham: A Savor the South Cookbook, by Damon Lee FowlerIn preparation for upcoming holiday feasts, today we bring you a recipe from our latest Savor the South® volume, Ham, by Damon Lee Fowler. Within his compilation of ham-themed recipes, Fowler provides a delicious and ham-filled rendition of Tetrazzini, a dish with associations to Italian soprano Luisa Tetrazzini, whom Fowler mentions in his introduction to the recipe.

Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

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Ham (or Ham and Turkey) Tetrazzini

Historians and popular culture mavens like to argue about the origins of this popular casserole, but all agree that the dish was created for Italian soprano Luisa Tetrazzini, whose appetite was apparently as large as her legendary voice. The original wasn’t a casserole but a bed of spaghetti topped with a velouté sauce enriched with poultry, mushrooms, and possibly slivered almonds, and finished with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. For at least three-quarters of a century, however, the more usual rendition has been this crumb-topped casserole. Here in the South, the poultry is often either supplemented with ham or altogether replaced by it. If you’re buying ham rather than using up leftovers, choose cooked ham that isn’t “smoky” or sweet.
Servings: 6 people


  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bundle herbs made with 1 bay leaf tied with 2 sprigs each of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley and thyme
  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 ounce small fresh white or brown mushrooms brushed clean and sliced
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk or light cream
  • salt and whole white pepper in a mill
  • whole nutmeg in a grater
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 large egg yolks lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 3 cups diced or cooked ham OR
  • 1 cup cooked ham AND
  • 2 cups cooked turkey
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs


  • Bring the chicken broth, water, and herb bundle to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to 2 cups and turn off the heat. Remove and discard the herb bundle. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°. Rub a 9 × 13-inch casserole with butter and bring 4 quarts water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to color. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the broth and milk or cream and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Simmer until it’s thickened and the flour loses its raw, pasty taste, about 3–4 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • When the water is boiling, stir in a handful of salt and the spaghetti. Cook until almost al dente. Drain and put it in the prepared casserole. Fold the egg yolks, sherry, ham, almonds, and cheese into the sauce and pour it over the pasta. Gently toss to mix and level the top with a spatula.
  • Melt the remaining butter in a skillet over low heat. Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs. Toss until the butter is evenly absorbed; sprinkle the buttered crumbs over the top of the casserole. Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes, and serve hot.


From Ham: Savor the South® cookbook by Damon Lee Fowler. Copyright © 2017 by University of North Carolina Press.