RECIPE

Turn last night's leftovers into a creamy chicken and pesto panini

Don't want to waste last night's leftover chicken? Transform it into this warm sandwich for lunch the next day

By Michael La Corte

Published February 13, 2022 5:30PM (EST)

Grilled Chicken and Pesto Panini (Getty Images/LauriPatterson)
Grilled Chicken and Pesto Panini (Getty Images/LauriPatterson)

Last week, Salon Food published a chicken tetrazzini recipe from writer and recipe developer Michael La Corte. As he wrote, it really is the ideal comfort recipe for these dark winter nights. While the origins of tetrazzini are a little murky — a prevailing theory is that it was named after the Italian opera star Luisa Tetrazzini — it has claimed a kind of stronghold on kitchens across America. 

I think this is partially because it is so decadent. You've got pillowy noodles enveloped in a rich bechamel sauce, whipped together with chicken (or turkey!) and a few vegetables of your choice. Top the whole thing with breadcrumbs and boom! There's a hearty casserole bubbling in the oven. 

But in speaking with Michael, he was telling me that he is really passionate about repurposing elements of his different recipes, especially when you're only cooking for one or two people. But how do you repurpose tetrazzini? 

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"I honed in on the classic lunch standby: a sandwich," he said. "Of course, it'd be a bit challenging to pile a heap of creamy pasta and chicken on some bread and call it a 'sandwich,' so I aimed to switch things up a bit, mixing the bechamel sauce with a touch of mayo [and adding] a vibrant pesto to zhush up the flavor profiles — and because I've always been astonished by how outrageously delicious pesto-mayo is."  

From there, Michael recommends adding some sauteed, chopped spinach, a generous heap of grated gruyere and some leftover or reserved chicken from your tetrazzini prep. Pile this all on a toasted roll or crusty ciabatta (or do as I did and panini press the whole thing) and you've got an equally comforting lunch for the next afternoon. 

Per Michael: "PSA: pasta salad on the side helps to round out the meal." 

Check out Michael's recipe below and be sure to give his tetrazzini a try! — Ashlie Stevens, deputy food editor. 

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Recipe: Creamy chicken and pesto sandwich

Yields
3-4 servings
Prep Time
5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes

Ingredients

1 large baguette or 3-4 smaller rolls

Leftover shredded or chopped chicken in béchamel (read more here)

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

3 tablespoons pesto

4 ounces Gruyere or Fontina, shredded

1.5 cups spinach, sauteed in olive oil with a a little minced shallot and garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper



 

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and pesto. Slice baguette — or several smaller rolls — in half and generously spread pesto mayonnaise across one half of the bread.
  3. Assemble sandwich by layering sauced chicken, shredded spinach, and topping with cheese. 
  4. Put sandwich open-faced in oven, letting the cheese melt over spinach and chicken and allowing the pesto-mayo to warm. You can also broil, but if you do, be mindful not to let the bread burn.
  5. Remove from oven, top sandwich with pesto-mayo half of bread, and slice the baguette into 3 to 4 sandwiches. 


     

 

 



 


Michael La Corte

Michael is a food writer, recipe editor and educator based in his beloved New Jersey. He loves hard cheeses, extra-crispy chicken cutlets, chocolate-coated candied orange peels, any and all pasta dishes, croissants, peach juice, coffee and admittedly stans Mountain Dew — as damning as that may be. He is a burgeoning movie buff and has an irrational distaste for potato bread. He is especially passionate about music, social justice advocacy, his loved ones and his dog, Winston.

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