I've read three conditions 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 nostalgic, and a craving for
a 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, and 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, my husband 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 two tuna noodle casserole recipes I've loved over the years. The first (and original to the site) is adapted from Cooking Light. The second is from Food52.
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~ Adapted from Cooking Light .. here
Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 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 fresh basil,
- 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 oz) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
- 2 cups frozen veggie mix
- ¼ - ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 325° 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 and 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.
~ Adapted from Food52 .. here
Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 5 ½ 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
- 1 ½ Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
- 1 ½ 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
- 8 oz egg noodles cooked until al dente and drained
- salt + fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 350° F
- 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)