Monday, January 24, 2022
Jan. 24, 2022

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A tetrazzini recipe born of leftover ham

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How’d your holiday go? Mine, like so many others, was hijacked by the omicron surge.

The (booster-ed) son I was supposed to spend Christmas with unexpectedly tested positive, putting an abrupt end to our planned family feast — and leaving me and my husband with a very expensive, 9-pound smoked ham from Parma Sausage in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

COVID-19, if anything, has taught us all how to pivot. In the days that followed, we ate our fill of ham and homemade sweet pickle sandwiches, and I also folded chunks of the cured meat into a savory quiche Lorraine. I also whipped up this rich and creamy ham tetrazzini before tucking a few chunks into the freezer.

Believed to be named after the Italian opera star Luisa Tetrazzini, and made famous by chef Louis Paquet in the 1920s, the noodle dish is traditionally made with chicken or seafood. But honestly, any protein works, including ham.

The original NYT recipe calls for fontina cheese and a panko topping, but I used what I had on hand — shredded gouda and fresh breadcrumbs toasted in butter. If you don’t like peas, consider asparagus, spinach or broccoli florets for a bright splash of green.

Leftover Ham Tetrazzini

Serves 8. Adapted from nytimes.com.

1 pound spaghetti

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

8 ounces button mushrooms, any tough or dry stems discarded, sliced

Salt and pepper

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup dry white wine

4 cups chicken stock

8 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks

2 cup chopped leftover ham

1 cup frozen baby peas

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving

1 cup shredded gouda cheese

Black pepper

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (regular) or 375 degrees (convection). Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package directs. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat, and add the mushrooms. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring only occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and have started to brown deeply, 8 to 11 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute.

Add flour. Stir well, until the flour and the mushrooms are evenly combined and the flour is evenly moistened, about 1 minute. Whisk in the white wine, and let it come to a boil, whisking constantly. Let the wine bubble to reduce slightly, 2 minutes. Whisk in the chicken stock, and let it come to a boil. Cook until it thickens noticeably, about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low. Whisk in the chunks of cream cheese (don’t worry if the cream cheese appears curdled), then fold in the ham, peas and the cheeses. Season generously with black pepper. Add the drained pasta and toss with tongs to combine. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. (I divided it between 2 smaller pans so I could share.)

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small bowl in the microwave or pan on top of the stove, and toss with the bread crumbs. Sprinkle the toasted crumbs all over the top of the pasta, and bake until bubbly and browned on top, about 25 minutes.

Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving. It will be very creamy at first but will firm up as it cools.

Serve with additional Parmesan for sprinkling.

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