Tuna casserole ain’t pretty and it doesn’t photograph particularly well. It’s certainly not a sexy recipe. But, ramped up, tuna casserole is a great weeknight meal for the working bachelor. It can stretch over the span of several nights as leftovers.
Growing up, the classic Campbell’s tuna noodle casserole appeared regularly in my Mother’s dinner rotation. It was convenient 1950’s recipe that could be made without any fresh ingredients. Just grab a can of tuna with a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup (America’s béchamel), some boiled egg noodles, canned or frozen peas, a potato chip topping and it was off to the races.
Because of it’s simplicity, Campbell’s tuna casserole became an instant classic and was enjoyed in households across the nation. It still shows up in basic form at gatherings and pot lucks and it works as inexpensive easy to prepare family meal. Make no mistake. Tuna noodle casserole is serious American comfort food.
About once a year I crave tuna casserole and this week I indulged. This version omits Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup substituting instead a real béchamel sauce spiced up with my new favorite flavoring ingredient — Crystal Hot Sauce. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
The preparation starts with a simple sauté of onions, celery, garlic and white mushrooms. Seasoning includes a couple sprigs of fresh thyme. When the onions are translucent, the pan is deglazed with Marsala wine. Chicken broth is then added along with canned tuna, capers and fresh lemon juice. This mixture is combined with the Crystal Hot sauce béchamel and then tossed with cooked egg noodles. Everything is spread into a casserole pan and topped with a mixture of grated cheddar cheese and breadcrumbs before baking in the oven.
M’m, M’m good.! This recipe serves four.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 white onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 cups white mushrooms sliced
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 cup marsala
- 8 ounces packaged chicken broth
- 8 ounces tuna in olive oil drained (2 small cans)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon Crystal hot sauce
- 14 ounces of egg noodles prepared according to package directions
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese
- sliced green onion for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring 2 tablespoons of butter and olive oil to medium temperature in a saute pan. Add onion, celery and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent. Add mushrooms and thyme. Cook until mushrooms render their liquid and are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Deglaze the saute pan with the Marsala wine. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the tuna, capers and lemon juice. Simmer for two to three minutes then remove from heat and set aside.
- In a deep saute pan, bring 3 tablespoons of butter to a medium heat. Add flour and whisk until a thick blonde roux forms. Whisk in milk to make a thick béchamel sauce. Whisk in Crystal hot sauce. Fold in the sautéed vegetable, broth and mushroom sauce described in steps 1 and 2.
- Cook noodles according to package directions and combine noodles with béchamel tuna sauce described in the previous step. Layer this mixture in a buttered 9×12 casserole dish.
- In a small bowl combine bread crumbs and grated cheese with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Spread this mixture over the casserole. Bake the casserole in the oven for 20 minutes util heated through and the topping is browned and crispy. Served with sliced green onions for garnish.