We had a minor rebellion here in response to all the beets I’d been cooking. I’ve been doling the recipes out to you all, but the family was eating them everyday! In order to quiet the murmurings I made a classic tuna casserole.
Back in the old days– when the children were small– tuna casserole was made by cooking up a box of macaroni and cheese (the kind with the powder) and dumping a can of tuna fish into it. Eat up, kids! The fancy version involved opening a can of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom and adding it to cooked macaroni and tuna. Would you be surprised if I told you the topping was crushed potato chips?
Now, you and I both know although those versions taste pretty darn good, they’re loaded with salt, stabilizers, artificial flavorings and preservatives. Comfort food doesn’t have to start with a can of cream of whatsis. If you have butter, flour and chicken broth on hand you can make your own sauce. I hope you’ll be inspired to Go Boxless and make your own Classic Tuna Casserole.
In the flexitarian kitchen, only the tuna and peas are non-negotiable in tuna casserole. Use any type of pasta you have on hand. We had orecchiette. Farfalle (bowties), elbows, small shells can also be used as well as the traditional wide egg noodle. Any cheese you like can be used, although you’ll probably want one that melts well. The topping is also fair game. If you want to use crushed buttery crackers or potato chips, I’m not going to judge. But, just so you know, the version listed here has 330 calories per one cup serving. You may want to be mindful of your serving size.
- 16 ounces uncooked pasta
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 clove chopped garlic (optional)
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 - 4 cups chicken broth
- 12 ounce can of tuna, drained
- 2 - 3 cups frozen peas, partially defrosted (I pull the bag out of the freezer and let it sit while I prep the other ingredients)
- 2 cups grated colby-jack cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- bread crumbs for topping
- Preheat the oven to 350. Prep a 2.5 quart casserole dish (or two smaller casseroles) with cooking spray or olive oil.
- Start the water for the pasta and cook it while you make the sauce. Cook it the minimum time recommended as the pasta will finish in the oven. Drain it well and let it sit until you need to add it to the casserole.
- Meanwhile, use a large saucepan or dutch oven, to saute the onions (and garlic if using) in the butter and olive oil.
- When the onions have softened, sprinkle the flour over top and cook for a few minutes. It will clump up.
- Add about half the chicken broth to the pot and stir well to break up any clumps. The sauce should smooth out and thicken up. Add more broth, eyeballing the amount needed to cover the type of pasta used.
- Stir in the cheese and allow it to melt. The sauce should be nice and thick by this point. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
- Add the tuna, peas, parsley and drained pasta. Mix well.
- Taste again and adjust the seasoning.
- Pour into casserole dishes, top with bread crumbs and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until the casserole is bubbly and the topping starts to brown.
The men in the household fell upon the tuna casserole and ate like they wanted to get rid of the taste of beets. I, of course, had a little decorum and enjoyed mine with a nice salad.
If you find your leftovers have dried out a bit, add a little milk or butter before reheating.