My Mother’s Chicken Spaghetti


From Craig Claiborne’s Southern Cooking by Craig Claiborne

1 chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), with giblets
Chicken broth to cover
Salt to taste, if desired
3 cups canned tomatoes, preferably Italian peeled tomatoes
7 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet green peppers
1 tablespoon or more finely minced garlic
1/4 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, optional
1 pound spaghetti or spaghettini
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated (2 to 2 1/2 cups)
Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place the chicken with the neck, gizzard, heart, and liver in a kettle, add chicken broth to cover, and salt to taste. Bring to the boil, and simmer until the chicken is tender without being dry, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool.

2. Remove the chicken, and take the meat from the bones. Shred the meat, cover, and set aside. Return the skin and bones to the kettle, and cook the broth down 30 minutes or longer. There should be 4 to 6 cups of broth. Strain and reserve the broth. Discard the skin and bones.

3. Meanwhile, put the tomatoes in a saucepan, and cook down to half the original volume, stirring. There should be 1 1/2 cups.

4. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a saucepan, and add the flour, stirring to blend with a wire whisk. When blended and smooth, add 1 cup of the reserved hot broth and the cream, stirring rapidly with the whisk. When thickened and smooth, add the nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

5. If the mushrooms are very small or button mushrooms, leave them whole. Otherwise, cut them in half or quarter them. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet, and add the mushrooms. Cook, shaking the skillet occasionally and stirring the mushrooms, until they are golden brown. Set aside.

6. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a deep skillet, and add the onions. Cook, stirring, until wilted. Add the celery and green peppers, and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook. The vegetables should remain crisp-tender.

7. Add the garlic, beef, and pork, and cook, stirring and chopping down with the edge of a large metal spoon to break up the meat. Cook just until the meat loses its red color. Add the bay leaf and red pepper flakes. Add the tomatoes and the white sauce made with the chicken broth. Add the mushrooms.

8. Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until it is just tender. Do not overcook. Remember that it will cook again when blended with the chicken and meat sauce. Drain the spaghetti, and run under cold water. 

9. Spoon enough of the meat sauce over the bottom of a 5 or 6 quart casserole to cover it lightly. Add about one-third of the spaghetti. Add about one-third of the shredded chicken, a layer of meat sauce, a layer of grated cheddar cheese, and another layer of spaghetti. Continue making layers, ending with a layer of spaghetti topped with a thin layer of meat sauce and grated cheddar cheese.

10. Pour in up to 2 cups of the reserved chicken broth, or enough to almost but not quite cover the top layer of spaghetti. Cover and let the spaghetti stand for 4 hours or longer. If the liquid is absorbed as the dish stands, add a little more chicken broth. Remember that when the dish is baked and served, the sauce will be just a bit soupy rather than thick and clinging.

11. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.

12. Place the spaghetti casserole on top of the stove and bring it just to the boil. Cover and place it in the oven. Bake 15 minutes, and uncover. Bake 15 minutes longer, or just until the casserole is hot and bubbling throughout and starting to brown on top. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese on the side.

Serves 12 or more.