We all have our favorite comfort foods, and one of mine is tuna noodle casserole, that time-honored combo of noodles, tuna and peas in a creamy mushroom sauce.
In the traditional (read ’50s housewife) version of this dish, the sauce is supplied by a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. And if convenience is the No. 1 consideration, that’s the way you want to make it.
But I’ve got this thing for mushrooms. Good mushrooms. So my version of tuna noodle casserole includes a from-scratch sauce made with real mushrooms. I chop up fresh button mushrooms and flavor them with a bit of dried shiitake or porcini.
That’s as upscale as I get. This is supposed to be comfort food, after all. But you could fancy it up even more by using fresh tuna, grilled or pan-fried and cut into chunks, and tossing in some fresh herbs. As for the noodles, use the traditional egg noodles or substitute rotini, farfalle or penne.
If you’re in a hurry or prefer your tuna noodle casserole creamier, serve it as is out of the pan. If not, scatter some bread crumbs and Parmesan over it and bake it till the top gets a bit crusty.
- 1 pound dried egg noodles or pasta (such as rotini or penne)
- 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons dried shiitake or porcini mushroom pieces, reconstituted in ½ cup water (save the liquid)
- ½ cup finely chopped onion (optional)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
- ½ teaspoon seafood seasoning (optional)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk or half-and-half
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cans tuna in water, drained and chunked
- 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Topping (optional):
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Boil the noodles according to package directions. About a minute before the end of the cooking time, toss in the peas. When noodles are cooked, drain.
- While noodles are cooking, make the sauce. Heat the butter in a large pot, then add the mushrooms, onion and seafood seasoning. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring, or until softened. Sprinkle with flour and stir, then gradually stir in the mushroom soaking liquid and the milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens to the consistency of a creamy soup.
- Add the drained noodles to the pot and toss with the sauce. Add the tuna and peas and toss well. Cook until the peas are heated through.
- If desired, spoon the noodle mixtured into a buttered casserole dish or pan. Toss together the bread crumbs, Parmesan and olive oil, and sprinkle over the noodles. Bake in a preheated 375-degree F. oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until top is lightly golden and turning crusty.