Callie’s Cabin: Tahoe-tuna noodle casserole (recipe)
It’s time. Autumn comfort food casseroles can be easy to make, fast to bake, and oh-so good to savor on a dark, rainy day in the mountains.
Welcome to the 20th century classic tuna-noodle casserole. When I was a kid my mom made this with egg noodles, canned peas, canned tuna and canned condensed mushroom soup. For a crunch on top it was potato chips.
OK, while this dish sounds strange it was a favorite on a week night.
Back in the day, though, when I was at daycare (they called it nursery school) food had way less TLC. Our keeper, aka the “warden,” dished up canned pea soup and spam sandwiches on stale white bread. I was the last child sitting at the kitchen table and the first one to go on a refusal to eat protest.
No way was I going to eat the green goo and sci-fi looking sandwiches with mystery meat. My sentence was to stay put until I finished the meal. Hours later I won. I didn’t eat the nondescript lunch.
Now, if we were served peas in a yummy dish like the tuna-noodle casserole our supervisor would have won the battle. But in hindsight, live and learn. I won by learning to prepare and eat wholesome food.
Welcome to the new age tuna-noodle casserole. I’m talking healthier fare, including whole grain pasta, organic milk, frozen peas, seasoned bread crumbs, real butter, and fresh herbs. Forget the canned stuff.
TAHOE-TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE
2 cups organic half and half
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ cup Parmesan or Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons fresh Italian herbs
2 cups hot cooked whole grain rotini, drained (colored variety is nice for fall with the orange, green, off white)
1 cup green peas, frozen, thawed
1-2 (3.5 ounce) can albacore tuna, water-packed, drained (I used one can; you can substitute one can of tuna with broccoli and carrots, chopped)
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons European-style butter, melted
Fresh chives for garnish
In a saucepan mix half and half, flour and cheese. Cook until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the stovetop. Pour into a bowl. Add cooked pasta, peas, and tuna. Add herbs. Put into an 8” by 8” square baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove. Top with cheese, bread crumbs, and drizzle with butter. Bake for several more minutes until golden brown and cheese is melted. Remove from oven. Cool for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chives. Makes eight servings.
This casserole re-do is great as is or paired with a green salad and warm whole grain rolls. Is it tastier than canned soup (solo or in a dish)? No doubt. The odds are this dish won’t cause any food fasts and more than likely someone will ask for a second helping.
Enjoy the comfort of this wholesome casserole that will make the kid in you (or your children) smile.
Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, and Superfoods) published by Kensington. The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club. Her website is http://www.calorey.com.