Thursday, October 6, 2011

Simple comforts - Tuna noodle casserole

There it is.  It's not glamorous, but it is immensely comforting and nostalgic to me during this cold, wet fall weather.  I've decided I'm pretty much a tuna noodle casserole purist.  It's tuna, it's noodles and not much else.  Just enough stuff to have good flavor and creamy, bubbly sauce.  Of course, that also means you are perfectly welcome to add peas or whatever to your casserole if you love it that way.  The nice thing about this dish is that even though it does not rely on a can, it still comes together in about the time it takes to boil the water and noodles.  I just can't do the can thing anymore.  Bad ingredients.  Besides, homemade tastes better anyway.  Now I would love this with diced onions sauteed with the mushrooms in the sauce as well.  Next time I'll add them too.  But this simple version was great with a liberal addition of fresh ground pepper.  I might even add my obligatory soup dash of tabasco next time.  I love customizable dishes!

Tuna Noodle Casserole
makes enough for 4-6

2 cups uncooked macaroni or noodle of choice
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 cup milk (or ½ broth, ½ milk)
chopped mushrooms to taste
chopped onions, sauteed in butter until tender (optional)
sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste (be liberal with the pepper)
1 can tuna, drained and flaked
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated, divided

Preheat the oven to 370ºF.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  When the water is boiling, add the macaroni and cook until it still has a firm bite.  (Don't cook the macaroni completely or it will get mushy when you cook it in the oven.)  Drain the macaroni.

While the noodles are boiling melt 1 tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Stir in the flour a little at a time until smooth and cook for a minute.  Turn heat to low and add milk/broth slowly, stirring to keep it smooth.  Get any lumps out early on.  Stir in the chopped mushrooms, as many as you'd like (I used a generous ¼ cup), and sauteed onions if using.  (I would use half an onion if using one.)  Return heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly until well thickened.  (It will be thick like a condensed soup.)  Season to taste with sea salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper.  This is your seasoning for the whole dish other than the salt in the cheese/butter, so don't be shy here.

Combine the macaroni, mushroom sauce, tuna, milk and butter in the pot used to boil the noodles.  Stir in half of the cheddar cheese, and check seasoning one last time.  You can do this over low heat to help it come together if your noodles have cooled off a bit.  Pile the mixture into a 1½ Qt casserole dish (or an 8×8″ pan).   Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and just starting to brown, and the casserole is bubbly.  

The leftovers are great the next day too. ☺


  1. See, I'm not a fan of the can soup version of this at ALL. But this, on the other hand, looks wonderful! Way to change up an old recipe for something so much better.

  2. Odd, I've been thinking tuna noodle casserole and mac & cheese ...

  3. I love your purist take on this classic comfort food dish; it reminds me of cold winter nights around the dinner table with my family.


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