Monday, June 3, 2019

Tuna Noodle Casserole (From Scratch!)

I didn't grow up eating tuna noodle casserole. I know it's a classic American comfort food that gained popularity through the convenience of canned cream of mushroom soup, but this was never on the menu growing up for us. It wasn't until I was an adult and found a from-scratch recipe which uses a mushroom-infused bechamel in place of canned sodium-heavy soup.

The sauce is not only superior to canned soup because, well, it's not canned, it also uses both sliced mushrooms (I use cremini) and dried porcini mushrooms, which really elevate and enhance the flavor.

Although this lives in the territory of macaroni and cheese, it's really not super cheesy. The mushrooms and tuna are the most prominent flavors.

This truly is an easy, family-friendly recipe that is better tasting and better for you than the original old-fashioned version. I started making this recipe about a decade ago and it recently resurfaced into my repertoire. I'm happy to share it today!

Tuna Noodle Casserole (From Scratch!)
Serves 4 to 6
(Adapted from Macaroni & Cheese)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the pan
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup flour
1/2 ounce dry porcini mushrooms, broken into small pieces
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth, homemade or canned
2 cups hot, but not boiling, milk (low-fat is fine)
A grating of fresh nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black, white, or cayenne pepper to taste
12 ounces wide noodles, such as egg noodles
6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Two 5-ounce cans good-quality tuna, packed in oil or water, drained
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh peas, blanched, or frozen peas, defrosted
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 to 4 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens; add the mushrooms and raise the heat slightly to cook them through. Sprinkle the onion and mushrooms with flour, stir for a few minutes to cook out the flavor of the flour, add the dried porcini to the pot, and remove from the heat. Stir in the broth with a wooden spoon and keep stirring to break up any floury lumps and make a smoothish sauce. Stir in the milk and return to the stove.

Cook the sauce over medium-high heat, stirring, for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until it thickens. If there are any floury lumps, whisk the sauce briefly with a wire whisk. Remove from the heat and season with the  nutmeg and salt and pepper. Set the sauce aside.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until it is just not quite al dente, as it will cook further in the oven, and drain.

In a buttered large shallow pan or baking dish, in layers add a quarter of the sauce, a quarter of the cheese, and a third of the tuna, peas, and noodles. Repeat layers two more times, and then end with a layer of sauce and a layer of cheese. Sprinkle with the parsley and crumbs, then dot with the remaining tablespoon of butter.

Bake until bubbly, lightly browned, and crisped in spots, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.


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