I've read there are three conditions
that will drive one to make a tuna noodle casserole ..
desperation .. laziness .. or an overwhelming craving
Maybe herein lies a bit of wisdom .. admittedly .. during my 40+ years .. all three have applied
I think back on the season of a new marriage and a full-time career as a college student. The years during which the kids were born .. and money was tight. In the cupboard I could always find .. a noodle of some shape .. a cream of something soup .. and a can of tuna
My goodness .. that sure seems like a long time ago
Turning a page in life's book .. I was myself beginning a career in IT. The kids were toddlers .. there was a wee bit more money in the checking account .. and my most precious commodity now seemed to be
After a long day .. a lot of times the best I could muster was to boil some water .. find the can opener .. add some creamy as a binder .. a few smashed potato chips to the top .. and bake for thirty minutes
Somehow desperation seemed ok .. understandable even .. laziness .. terribly unfortunate
Fast-forward to this week .. July in Iowa .. which should be the season for grilling .. or salads filled with all things organic and green. Instead .. I found myself with my favorite church lady cookbooks on my desk .. feeling terribly nostalgic .. and a craving for ..
tuna noodle casserole
This certainly is an updated version of a comfort-food classic
Canned soup is replaced with a homemade sauce that begins as a simple roux .. to which fresh herbs and sherry are added. The butter .. fresh mushrooms .. shallot .. lemon zest round out the flavor combination. Garlic panko topping adds a dramatic finish
It's creamy without being soupy .. truly the sum of its ingredients .. which give a well-balanced flavor. The final mix fit nicely into a 10″ cast iron pan .. and emerged bubbly and browned after about thirty minutes.
A few notes
The original author recommends using oil packed tuna .. for better texture and flavor .. which I'm sure is delicious. At our house The Chef grilled three or four cod fillets .. which I shredded and added instead.
I couldn't resist adding a package of frozen mixed veggies .. if not only for the sake of color .. then for the bit of nostalgia they bring
ps: There are 2 tuna noodle casserole recipes I've really loved over the years. The first from Food52. The second (and original to the site) adapted from Cooking Light
~ Adapted from Food52 .. here
- 5½ Tbsp butter, divided
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup portobello mushrooms, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 shallot, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- ¾ Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
- 1½ Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
- 1½ Tbsp fresh chives, minced
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- ¼ cup whole-wheat pastry flour (** any flour will work)
- 1 cup milk (** whole is best)
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 cans oil packed tuna, drained (** I used 3-4 grilled cod fillets, flaked)
- 1 small bag of frozen mixed veggies (** optional)
- 8 ounces egg noodles, cooked until al dente and drained
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- Pre-heat your oven to 350F.
- In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat .. add 1 Tbs. of butter and heat until foaming.
- Stir in the mushrooms and cook them until they've given off all of their liquid and cooked through (~ 10 minutes).
- Season lightly with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Add another ½ Tbsp butter to the frying pan, along with the onion, shallot and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes, until they've softened.
- Add the chopped herbs and sherry.
- Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Stir the mushrooms into this mix and then set this aside.
- In another saucepan, heat 3 Tbsp butter over medium-high, until foaming.
- Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Then whisk in the milk and chicken stock, bit by bit, making a smooth sauce.
- Cook while stirring, until just slightly thickened (another minute or two). Then add the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Flake the tuna and combine with the white sauce, mushroom-onion mixture, mixed veggies (if using), and the noodles
- Grease an 8 X 8-inch baking pan and transfer the casserole mixture into it.
- In a small pan, melt the last tablespoon of butter.
- Stir in the minced garlic and the breadcrumbs.
- Cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
- Sprinkle them over the casserole.
- Put the casserole in the oven and bake until it is bubbly (~ about 30 minutes)
% Protein: 38
% Carbs: 36
% Fat: 7
~ Adapted from Cooking Light .. here
- 8 oz penne pasta
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ¼ lb Shiitake Mushrooms, chopped
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 cups Spinach, large stems removed, roughly chopped
- 2 cups red bell peppers, chopped (** a mix of colored bell peppers is a nice substitute too .. if only for the added bit of color)
- 3-4 (5 oz) cans albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup greek yogurt
- 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
- 3 Tbsp Mustard
- 2 tsp basil, fresh
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- small pinch fine-grain sea salt + more to taste
- pinch freshly-ground black pepper + more to taste
- ½ cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
- 2 cups frozen veggie mix
- ¼ - ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (** I like whole wheat)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
- Cook the noodles until al dente .. according to the directions on the package
- In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add mushrooms, and cook 2 or 3 minutes, until they're beginning to release their liquid.
- Add garlic and bell peppers, cook 3 or 4 minutes more.
- Add the spinach & continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, allowing it to wilt
- Make the sauce:
- Measure the spices ahead of time and set aside
- In a medium sized pot over medium heat, add the milk. Stir constantly, until it's on the verge of boiling.
- Add greek yogurt, flour, mustard, basil, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper, all while continuing to stir
- Add ¼ Parmesan cheese and remove from heat, continuing to stir until the cheese has melted. (** The sauce should be thick)
- Combine the noodles, tuna, sauce, frozen veggies, cooked mushrooms and spinach
- Transfer to a shallow baking dish, top with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until the casserole is golden and bubbly.
% Protein: 33
% Carbs: 52
% Fat: 11