Growing up as an missionary’s kid (MK) we spent a lot of time eating at other people’s houses. We also spent lots of time eating at church potlucks. Particularly when we were stateside. Sure we had potlucks at our church in Spain, but that was amazing traditional Spanish food. When we were traveling and visiting friends and churches I could always count on at least one good casserole. I love casseroles.
Best part about casseroles? They have to bake. While they bake I can get the dinner making mess cleaned up. Then, when it comes time to sit down for dinner, the kitchen is spotless. Absolutely one of my favorite things in the world- eating dinner with a clean kitchen.
Casseroles are something it seems Americans do really well. Recipes such as turkey tetrazzini, baked mac and cheese, baked penned bolognese, and of course tuna noodle casserole. The basic casserole formula is simple- pasta, cream of some sort, token bit of veggie, something to make the top extra good. Am I missing anything?
Most casseroles seem to call for a can of some sort of cream soup for the cream bit. This is a problem for me as MSG and I aren’t friends. Plus I like cooking with real food as much as possible. Sure you can get all natural condensed soups at places like Trader Joe’s, but why pay for it when you can make it!
As is often the case Martha Stewart came to my rescue with a wonderful recipe. The cream soup is replaced with stock and a simple roux. We have home canned tuna on hand so ours was extra tasty. The only peas I had in the house have been used as an ice pack more times than I can count so I used frozen green beans I put up from my garden last summer. Also I subbed in whole wheat pasta because that’s how we roll around here.
Please don’t burn me at the stake or call sacrilege for modifying a traditional recipe so much. I love a good traditional casserole as much as the next but this was honestly better. It was fresh and light. I ate a whole bowl full and didn’t get the “ugh just ate too much” feeling.
And my favorite thing in the world (other than eat dinner with a clean kitchen)? It made these sweet four dishes for dinner and an 8 x 8- which is in the freezer for another day!
Tuna Noodle Casserole (easily would feed 8)
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 pound whole elbow macaroni
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 ounce Parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced small
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (homemade is best)
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cans (6 ounces each) solid light tuna packed in water, drained and flaked
1 cup frozen green beans, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions (it will be undercooked). Drain. In a small bowl, toss together panko, Parmesan, and 2 teaspoons oil. In the pasta pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, 8 minutes. Add flour and whisk to coat onion with flour. Slowly whisk in broth, then milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in pasta, tuna, and green beans and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer tuna mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (or dishes of your choice) and top with panko mixture. Bake until sauce is bubbling and crust is golden, 17 to 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.