Making Music with Tuneful 'Leftovers'

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Luisa Tetrazzini. Credit: Library of Congress. i

Italian opera soprano Luisa Tetrazzini said that eating well was the key to good singing. She was such a fan of food that the dish chicken Tetrazzini was named in her honor. Library of Congress hide caption

itoggle caption Library of Congress
Luisa Tetrazzini. Credit: Library of Congress.

Italian opera soprano Luisa Tetrazzini said that eating well was the key to good singing. She was such a fan of food that the dish chicken Tetrazzini was named in her honor.

Library of Congress

Listen and Compare

Hear violinist Michael Rabin play Paganini's "Caprice No. 24"; then compare it to Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," played by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

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Story Discography

Music: Eroica Variations, Op. 35

Composer: Beethoven

Performed by: Jenoe Jando, Piano

CD Title: Beethoven: Eroica-Variations

Catalog: Naxos 8.550676 (1992)

Music: Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major (Sinfonia Eroica)

Composer: Beethoven

Performed by: The Chamber Orchestra of Europe - Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Conductor

CD Title: Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-8

Catalog: Teldec 2292-46452-2 (1991)


Music: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71A

Composer: Tchaikovsky

Performaned by: Philharmonia Orchestra - Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor

CD Title: Bizet: L'Arlesienne Suites - A. Davis

Catalog: CBS Masterworks Digital Masters MDK 45649 (1989)


Music: Caprice No. 24, Op. 1

Composer: Paganini

Performed by: Michael Rabin, Violin

CD Title: Michael Rabin 1936 - 1972

Catalog: EMI Classics CMS 7 64123 2 B (1991)

Music: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43

Composer: Rachmaninoff

Performed by: Philippe Entremont, Piano, with the Philadelphia Orchestra - Eugene Ormandy, Conductor

CD Title: Rachmaninoff: Piano Conc. No. 2 - Entremont

Catalog: CBS Odyssey MBK46271 (1990)


Music: Symphony No. 1 in D major (Titan) - Feierlich und Gemessen Ohne zu Schleppen

Composer: Mahler

Performed by: Hakan Hagegard, Baritone, with the New York Philharmonic - Kurt Masur, Conductor

CD Title: Mahler: Symphony No. 1 - Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen

Catalog: Teldec 9031-74868-2 (1992)


Music: Somewhere (Ballet)

Composers: Leonard Bernstein, Music - Stephen Sondheim, Lyrics

Performed by: Original Cast Recording, 1957

CD Title: West Side Story

Catalog: Sony Clasical/Columbia/Legacy SK 60724 (1998)

Music: Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat, Op. 73 (Emperor) - Adagio un Poco Mosso

Composer: Beethoven

Performed by: Boston Symphony Orchestra - Erich Leinsdorf, Conductor

CD Title: The Rubinstein Collection - Beethoven Concertos - No. 4 in G / No. 5 in E-Flat (Emperor)

Catalog: RCA Red Seal 5676-2-RC (1987)


Music: La Sonnambula

Composer: Bellini

Performed by: Luisa Tetrazzini

CD Title: Luisa Tetrazzini Volume 2

Catalog: Nimbus Records NI 7891 (1998)

Even the greatest of composers have raided their own works for themes and ditties to use in future works. They also have borrowed from the works of their predecessors. Beethoven composed variations on a theme by Mozart, and Brahms fiddled with Haydn's tunes, for example.

It wasn't plagiarism, really — the composers gave their works titles like Variations on a Theme by Haydn. So whether you're talking turkey or Telemann, leftovers can be lovely. Renee Montagne talks with music commentator Miles Hoffman on the theme of tuneful leftovers.

And to prove the point that leftovers can be beautiful, here is a recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini from

Turkey Tetrazzini - Serves Six

Note: Using a shallow baking dish, no cover, and a very hot oven benefit both texture and flavor. Don't be stingy with the salt and pepper. Tetrazzini is great with leftover chicken as well.


1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Pinch salt

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese



3/4 pound spaghetti or other large-strand pasta

6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing baking dish

8 ounces white button mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, and sliced thin

2 medium onions, minced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons dry sherry

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves

4 cups leftover cooked boneless turkey or chicken meat, cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 cups frozen peas, thawed

1. FOR THE TOPPING: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix bread crumbs, salt, and butter in small baking dish — bake until golden brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature, transfer to bowl, and mix with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan.

2. FOR THE FILLING: Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Butter shallow casserole or baking dish that measures about 13 x 9 inches. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt, snap spaghetti in half, and add to pot. Cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water, drain spaghetti, and return to pot with reserved liquid.

3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat until foaming subsides; add mushrooms and onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until onions soften and mushroom liquid evaporates, 7 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to medium bowl and set aside.

4. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in cleaned skillet over medium heat. When foam subsides, whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until flour turns golden, 1 to 2 minutes. While continuing to whisk, gradually add chicken stock. Adjust heat to medium-high and simmer until mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Take off heat and whisk in sherry, Parmesan, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, lemon juice and thyme. Add sauce, mushroom mixture, turkey, and peas to spaghetti and mix well, adjusting seasonings to taste.

5. Turn mixture into buttered baking dish, sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs, and bake until bread crumbs brown and mixture is bubbly, 13 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Reprinted by permission of, America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated.

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