I love tuna casserole – I mean, is it even possible to have grown up in the 70s and not love tuna casserole? I can’t remember if this is something my mother ever made, but I know I had it at friends’ houses and it was always a favorite. I’ve been making it for years using the recipe from the back of a package of egg noodles and it’s always yummy. But… what if you don’t want a can of soup? What if you want to reduce the fat in the dish? I know, radical moves, man… but it can be done!
First, no canned soup. Toss the tuna with lemon and some olive oil for brightness, and then make a heavenly cheese sauce in place of the soup. You will be so happy, you’ll never go back to The Old Ways. Oh all right, we’ll keep the frozen peas. Frozen vegetables retain more of their vitamins than canned and don’t contain preservatives, so they get a pass. (Gotta keep the mid-century feel somehow.)
Noodles play a big part in many casseroles, especially this one. Heck, some versions are called Tuna Noodle Casserole, so you see they’re not messing around. You can use traditional egg noodles, but I like whole wheat pasta and I like to vary the shape, from spirals to penne to shells. Go crazy… it’s like the art you made in kindergarten with pasta and glue, only you eat it. (You didn’t eat the glue, did you? Oopos sorry.
sautee the onions first...
Finally, you can make this with canned salmon if that’s what floats your boat, and I must say that is a mighty tasty version. I might consider adding chopped scallions or chives next time. Who knew tuna casserole was going to turn out to be such a blank canvas! Whip some up for dinner today and let me know how you like it.
12 oz noodles
Salt and pepper
3 (5 oz each) cans tuna (in water) drained thoroughly
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
½ onion, chopped fine
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup ½ and ½
6 oz shredded cheese
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp butter
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to boil on stove top in Dutch oven. Add noodles and 1 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.
2. Combine tuna, 2 tsp oil, lemon juice ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper in a medium bowl and flake tuna into chunks with a fork; let sit for 10 min.
3. In now-empty pot, heat 1 tsp oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook till translucent, 6-8 min. whisk in broth and ½ and ½ and bring to a simmer for 2 min. Remove from heat and whisk in shredded cheese, a handful at a time, till melted. Stir in cooked noodles, tuna mixture, peas and ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper (to taste).
4. Transfer mixture to casserole or baking dish. Toast panko breadcrumbs in small pan with melted butter and sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake until sauce is bubbling around edges, 12 to 14 min. Let cool slightly before serving.
toasting breadcrumbs with butter to top it