Growing up, Tuna Noodle Casserole was one of my absolute favorite dinners. So much so, that today it’s one of my top 3 favorite comfort foods (I don’t really know what the other two are, but you know what I mean, it’s way up there). My mom, like so many others, used to make this with a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup and a can of tuna, which probably made it one of her favorite dinners to make since nothing is faster or easier than boiling water and opening cans. I doubt she makes this anymore, but maybe she will after I introduce you all to “grown up” Tuna Noodle Casserole: it’s all the flavors your nostalgia crave, but made from scratch with fresh ingredients.
1. Start with a medium onion, finely chopped, and sauté it with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onion becomes translucent. Then turn up the heat a little bit and add about 10 ounces of sliced mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Sauté them for 2 more minutes until the mushrooms start to give off their liquids. Now, add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and continue sautéing until it evaporates. Then add 1/4 cup of Sherry and do the same. Once the liquids are evaporated, take it off the heat and set it aside.
Now, it’s time to work on the bechamel. In the meantime, put a large pot of water on to boil and cook 6 ounces of curly egg noodles (I used corkscrew pasta because I couldn’t find egg noodles today) according to the package.
2. For the bechamel, heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium low heat. Once it’s melted, add 1/4 cup of all purpose flour and whisk it for about 5 minutes. This is a roux. Now, stream in 2 cups of chicken stock slowly, whisking until it’s all incorporated. Bring it to a boil and add 1 cup of milk. Simmer for 5 more minutes, whisking occasionally. The mixture should go from being a thick paste to a creamy sauce.
Now add the mushroom mixture, 6 ounces of flaked tuna (drained previously), and season with salt and pepper to taste (depending on the salt content of the chicken broth you’ll have to add more or less salt).
3. Once the noodles/pasta are cooked, drain them and put them in a large casserole pan. Pour the bechamel mixture on top and mix until evenly distributed. Sprinkle cheddar cheese and bread crumbs (about one cup of each) over the top and pop it into a 375 degree oven, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes until the top is melted and starting to crisp and the sauce is bubbling.
So this may not be the super simple solution for dinner that the version we grew up with was, but this is incredibly flavorful and fresh ingredients always win over canned, especially since canned soups usually have outrageous levels of sodum… Anyway, this recipe was totally worth the extra time it took (and it really only took about an hour, half of which it’s just sitting in the oven). It tasted just like I remember and fully fulfilled the comfort food requirements.
Here’s the ingredient list:
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
- 1/4 cup of Sherry
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 1 cup of milk
- 6 ounce can of tuna, drained and flaked
- 6 ounces of dry curly egg noodles or corkscrew pasta
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- salt and pepper