Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

I was figuring out what to make for dinner when I learned Jim has never had one of my childhood staples – tuna noodle casserole. But I couldn’t do the standard dump-and-bake version using cream of whatever soup. You can find hundreds of tuna noodle casserole recipes in the blogosphere but I liked the one on the food52 blog.

Warning, this recipe results in lots of dirty pots and pans, especially if you start out using an 8×10 casserole only to find out it’s not big enough. The original recipe was for an 8×8 casserole, but I wanted leftovers for lunch, so I increased all the ingredients.

I had red bell pepper and asparagus in the refrigerator so I added those, and since my mother always put peas in our tuna noodle casserole, I had to add them to mine too. If you’d like a creamy casserole, use the ingredient amounts for the wetter version.

tuna fish noodle casserole recipe

Inspecting tuna, Tokyo Fish Market (1960s) ~ Photo by Jay Bergesen

Tuna Noodle Casserole

You’ll need a large pot with lid (for the pasta), large deep frying pan (for vegetables), medium sauce pan (for the white sauce), whisk, 13×9 oven-safe casserole, small sauce pan or ramekin (for the butter) and a small bowl (for topping).

Update: for a luxoriously delicious version, use fresh tuna, any kind will do.

  • 6 to 8 ounces elbow macaroni, small shells or other small pasta shape
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 2 to 3 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut in 1″ pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced (about a tablespoon)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh dill, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, minced (or chives)
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry (or white wine or dry vermouth)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (wetter version – 6 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup flour (wetter version – 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1-1/2 cup milk (wetter version – 2-1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (wetter version – 3/4 cup)
  • 3 cans tuna, drained (or 1 to 2 pounds fresh tuna)
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Garlic powder and salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Boil a large pot of water. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat, add mushrooms, onion, red bell pepper, asparagus and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt and pepper and cook until garlic is just turning golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the dill, thyme, scallions and the sherry and cook for another 2 minutes.

In a saucepan, heat butter over medium-high until foaming, or use the “wetter version” amounts here. Stir in the flour to make a roux, cook about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and chicken broth, bit by bit, to make a smooth sauce. Cook, stirring, until just slightly thickened, another minute or two. It will get a bit darker too. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Flake the tuna while adding it to the vegetables. Add peas, hot sauce, white sauce mixture and the noodles, and stir to mix. Grease a 13×9 casserole and transfer the tuna noodle mixture into it.

Melt 1-1/2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave or on the stove. Combine panko breadcrumbs and parmesan in a small bowl, add the butter, lemon zest, garlic powder and salt, stir to mix. Sprinkle over the casserole. Put the casserole in the oven and bake until it is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Original recipe: Tuna Noodle Casserole Redux, food52

7 thoughts on “Tuna Noodle Casserole

  1. I am laughing about “standard dump and bake” because, to me, that is what every recipe should be! I wish I could taste this version (without actually making it myself!) to see if it’s actually worth all the ingredients and pan/pot dirtying. 😉 Maybe I can inspire Patrick to make it.

    1. deirdrereid says:

      Ha ha, my life would be easier if I did a dump and bake now and then. I sort of did tonight. I dumped a jar of spaghetti sauce in a pot but I added canned clams and pesto. I was jonesing for pizza but didn’t feel like going out to get any or paying premium for delivery so I made the easiest most interesting pasta I could. It hit the spot.

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