Hunger leads a person to do a great many things, and in my case, it led me to my first bite of tuna noodle casserole.
I think most people’s eyes fill with dread at the very words tuna noodle casserole, and I can understand why. Tuna is not exactly popular among the proteins, and the word “casserole” usually conjures up suppressed memories of bad cooks who served mystery ingredients in a CorningWare dish, covered in some kind of thick glop.
But when you swap canned soup for chicken stock, butter and cheese, a casserole becomes what it was meant to be all along: comfort food.
As you pull it from the oven, topped with perfectly crunchy, golden brown bread crumbs tossed with Parmesan cheese, you may just dip your fork into the least conspicuous corner and taste it. When you do, you are going to say mmmm… internally of course, because you wouldn’t want anyone else to know how delighted you are over something so unpopular.
As it’s portioned into cozy bowls and spooned into the mouths surrounding your dinner table, you’ll smile at the surprised expression forming on each face.
It doesn’t make sense. Something so simple and so unglamorous shouldn’t be this good. But believe me, it is.
- 16 oz egg noodles, cooked to al dente, drained
- 2 cans solid tuna, drained
- 3T butter, divided
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 8oz cream cheese, softened
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (8 oz block, grated)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Salt and Pepper
- 1/2 cup plain Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Boil water for noodles. Season boiling water with 1 Tablespoon salt. Cook noodles according to package directions for al dente (usually the shortest number of recommended minutes). Drain pasta. Drain both cans of tuna thoroughly (I use the lid to press the tuna, making sure I've drained as much liquid as possible). Flake the tuna with a fork and toss it on top of drained noodles. Set aside.
- Heat 2 Tablespoons of butter in a rimmed skillet over medium high heat. Add chopped onion and season with salt. Sauté onions until translucent and soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add remaining tablespoon of butter and flour. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in chicken broth. Stir and bring to a boil until thickened, about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning (salt and pepper). Off heat. Add cream cheese and cheddar and whisk until melted. Add peas and allow them to warm through. Pour sauce into the now empty pot that was used to boil noodles. Stir in noodles and tuna. Pour mixture into 9 x 13 pan or casserole dish.
- Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, pepper and olive oil. Sprinkle over top of casserole.
- Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes, until topping turns golden.