Years and years ago, we lived in Ohio for the first few years of our marriage and my husband’s first military assignment at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. I was 20. We attended a lovely church there called Bethany Christian Church and served as youth leaders.
That’s where I met my sweet friend Jackie. Jackie was an amazing friend, and honestly, I like to say that God gave me Jackie (who was roughly twice my age and a lot smarter) to help me learn to love my new mother-in-law. They have very similar personalities. I miss Jackie. And she’s not on Facebook, I looked. But I digress.
Jackie is the reason we still to this day enjoy the dish called Chicken Tetrazinni. One year, her family invited my husband and I over for New Year’s Eve. We were the only two families and it was a fun evening of talking and I’m sure the men were watching football or something. I think my husband might have played Risk with her boys.
Mostly, I remember two of the dishes — raw cold shrimp (which neither my husband or I would eat so I was terribly embarrassed that she had spent so much $$ on it) and the chicken tetrazzini. I asked for the recipe for that one.
That was 23 years or so ago, and of course her recipe did not call for an Instant Pot. I’ve been making it for years on the stove top. Cook the chicken, cook the pasta, cook the cheese sauce. It takes forever, and the recipe makes enough to feed fifteen people or so. I usually only make it when I’m with my extended family (because it makes so much), or when I want to take a meal to a friend who just had a baby – in which case I would keep half for our family and we would both still have leftovers. It’s also really good with leftover turkey, so sometimes we do that after holidays.
Yesterday, I decided to make this meal for a friend’s family because she had to go out of town suddenly and I thought her teens might want some help with supper. I made the full stovetop recipe plus brownies and a salad and my sweet mother-in-law’s bread machine yeast rolls.
As I pulled the two big 9 x13 pans filled with chicken and noodles out to add the cheese sauce and deliver the food – one of them dumped. My plan for the kids to eat when hubby and I go out on date night Friday was that pan of Chicken Tetrazzini. So. Yeah. It was lovely.
I should have taken a picture just for this blog post but at the time I wasn’t thinking about a blog post, I was thinking about keeping our puppy out of a spilled pile of noodles while also finishing up the dishes for my friend and getting them delivered within the next ten minutes on our way to TaeKwonDo! So there you go.
As it turns out, it was a happy accident. On the way home from dropping the boy off, I started thinking about making a half batch to use up the rest of the cheese sauce sitting on my stove. And as I pondered running by the store to grab some more chicken, I started wondering if I could cook a half batch of it in the Instant Pot instead of on the stove.
At first I dismissed the idea because it’s spaghetti and chicken, which have two very different cook times, but honestly it just kept coming back up in my mind. Finally the how, and the WHY it would actually work and not result in mushy pasta occurred to me. Fortunately, before I passed the grocery store.
I ran home with more chicken thighs and put my idea to the test. I’m so excited that it works!
This means I can now make Instant Pot Chicken Tetrazzini in the time it takes for the main ingredients to cook in the IP. It’s fast, it’s easy, and I can make just the right amount any time I want for just my family! I’m not sure why I’ve never thought of cutting the recipe in half before, but whatever. Now I can do it in my beloved Instant Pot and that is all that matters.
The reason this recipe works is two-fold. One, the water you start with is only 1/4 of what the pasta needs, so the pasta cooks more gradually as the chicken releases its broth into the IP. Two, since it is a half recipe, the thighs cook faster than what I am used to when I cook chicken in the Instant Pot.
So it really does work to throw the spaghetti and chicken in the Instant Pot, set it to pressure cook, and then mix up the cheese sauce on the stove while you wait. It’s a snap. I love it. I’m still excited 24 hours later.
The result might be a little less al dente than my normal pasta dish, but it is done in 1/3 of the time and still tastes amazing so I’m good with that. It’s cheesy goodness. It’s comfort food. I have a 9″ round dish filled with Instant Pot Chicken Tetrazzini in my fridge right now waiting to be re-heated for date night tonight and I don’t even get to eat it. I was so tempted at lunch time to dig in!
That brings up another point though — you can serve the Chicken Tetrazzini straight up out of the Instant Pot mixed with the cheese sauce OR you can put it into a 9 x 9 pan and save it to be reheated for 30 minutes in the oven later, by you or by a friend. You can even add crushed cheese crackers to the top before you bake it if you want. My kids don’t like it that way so we leave those off.
Click the little printer icon for a printable version of Instant Pot Chicken Tetrazzini!
Instant Pot Chicken Tetrazzini
- Prep Time: 3 Minutes
- Cook Time: 10 Minutes
- Total Time: 13 minutes
- Yield: 6-7 People 1x
Chicken and Pasta
- 1lb Box Spaghetti
- 4 Chicken Thighs (Boneless!) or Three Chicken Breasts. Diced.
- 2.5–3 Cups Chicken Broth
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 6 Tablespoons Butter
- 6 Tablespoons Flour
- 4 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- 2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
- 1 Cup Cheese Crackers (Crushed (Optional))
Chicken and Pasta
- Plug in your Instant Pot. Add the broth and hit the saute button to get it started heating.
- Pull out a box of Spaghetti. Break the noodles in half or thirds and throw them in the Instant Pot. Stir them up with the broth to get all the noodles wet.
- Top with your diced chicken.
- Add Salt and Pepper to taste.
- Make sure the plastic seal on the lid is seeded correctly. Add the lid, and seal the vent.
- Switch the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook (or “manual” depending on which model you have).
- Set the time for 10 minutes.
Once the Instant Pot is counting down, start making your cheese sauce.
- Melt the butter. Add the flour. Stir together.
- Whisk in the Chicken Broth and allow to thicken slightly.
- Whisk in the Heavy Cream. I like to put the cream into a hot measuring cup to get it started heating gently so it doesn’t curdle. If you whisk it in fast it usually won’t anyway.
- Allow the sauce to thicken, stirring constantly.
- Add the cheese and stir to melt.
Finishing it off
- When the pressure cooking cycle is complete, release the steam immediately.
- Stir the pasta and separate any stuck noodles.
- Dump the pasta/chicken mixture in a deep 9×13 pan. Add the cheese sauce and stir. Put in the oven for 15-30 minutes. Add a layer of cheese to the top for the last ten minutes.
- Crush the cheese crackers. Reserve to top the dish before serving or before re-heating in the oven the next day.
Traditional Tetrazzini has mushrooms. I have six kids and only two like mushrooms so I leave those out.
Joan Kubes says
I love how noodles turn out perfect in the insta pot! So easy!
What size instant pot ?
Amy Blevins says
I use a 6 quart Instant Pot.
Do you thaw the chicken first or use frozen? Wanna make sure the cook time is sufficient.
Amy Blevins says
I use fresh, diced chicken. You cannot increase the cook time for this recipe to use frozen chicken or the pasta will be awful.