Tuna Noodle Casserole
To most North Americans, tuna noodle casserole is not a foreign concept. In fact, it’s actually a classic much like macaroni and cheese, or meatloaf. This recipe is not a reinvention of the classic dish …a great classic dish, but rather the unabridged version. Most busy moms opt for the can of Campbell’s condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup and a package of dry egg noodles, and I think that’s great. That’s how I’ve always had it.
For this recipe I decided to make my own creamy sauce and my own fresh pasta. It remains simplistic in its own right, but that little extra attention to detail takes on a whole new appreciation for a dish tens of millions of children grew up eating on busy weeknights.
I don’t make this dish very often, even as a kid it was never up there on my list of choice foods. But as life takes its course and we grow up, we move away, we have children of our own, and those dishes we were never really fond of suddenly beckon us. An inescapable memory or craving befalls us, and sadly we can’t just turn to our mothers and request what is now a food of choice. So we are left with just one option …recreate it.
Growing up, my mother usually threw together a batch of tea biscuits to eat with tuna noodle casserole. On occasion we would get plain potato chips. It was those occasions I knew mom was too tired to make the biscuits, and she would resort to cheating. It was a cheat I not only preferred, but a cheat that made this casserole more memorable. Of course we want to provide healthy balanced meals to our children, but putting the odd handful of potato chips alongside what seemed at the time boring, really gave the casserole a comfort-junk food feel.
This dish is really more about recreating a childhood memory than to make it fancy or over-the-top gourmet, so I mainly focused on a sauce that would tie the few simple ingredients together. Though I haven’t posted the recipe for egg noodles here, for anyone who’s interested, I used a basic pasta dough of 1 whole egg per 100g of flour and a drizzle of olive oil. It should noted however, I also added 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the 300g of flour I used for this recipe. Baking soda prevents the pasta from becoming too mushy as it cooks in liquid. Ideally, lye water or caustic soda would give you the full alkaline effect, but because we’re also using eggs, the protein helps to stabilize the pasta’s structure and thus the baking soda worked just fine.
Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 500g fresh pappardelle egg noodle pasta, cooked
- 2 cans (200g each) chunky tuna in water
- 1½ cups peas
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup white cheddar
- Sauce (see below)
- 1 liter mushroom stock
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp thyme
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup extra mature white cheddar
- ½ cup cream
For the sauce:
1. Whether made fresh, packaged, or from bouillon cubes, have the stock boiling hot and ready. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the flour to make a roux. Cook down for 5 minutes over medium heat until the roux is a nutty brown color.
2. Pour in the mushroom stock slowly while whisking to avoid lumps. After the stock is added and a smooth consistency is achieved, add the onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, and salt and pepper. (If the sauce is lumpy, pour it through a strainer and return to pot.)
3. In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and cornstarch. Whisk rapidly.
4. Bring sauce to a boil, then pour into egg yolks/cornstarch while whisking. Return to saucepan and heat over low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses until they are fully incorporated and melted. Then add the cream. Stir well and set aside.
Tuna Casserole Assembly:
Preheat oven to 180°C
1. In a 9″x13″ pan (lasagne dish), first add the cooked pappardelle noodles, followed by the tuna and peas. Toss to mix up but keep some tuna chunks intact. Pour sauce over the noodles and toss again to coat. Sprinkle with Parmesan and cheddar.
2. Bake covered for 45 minutes. Remove foil and turn the broiler on high to brown the cheese.
3. Serve hot with biscuits or potato chips on the side.