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tuna casserole

December 13, 2008

zora naki

oh tuna casserole, how i love you.

it snowed yesterday (for the first time this winter) – great wet globs that splattered all over everything in sight, and melted on touchdown. then it rained some more.

this is the weather that comfort food was meant for – warm, creamy, soothing stuff that slides down your throat and settles in your belly. who doesn’t have fond memories of old-style tuna casserole (you know what i’m talking about – cream of mushroom soup and crunchy cornflake topping) from days gone by?

i had a craving last week and cobbled together this recipe for a zorafied version (more green, less cream). i would have taken a picture, but it disappeared too quickly. it’s not a healthfest, but it’s really yummy.

tuna casserole

I surfed through epicurious and a few other sites, but i didn’t have any cream or whole milk in the house, and i couldn’t stomach the idea of three jars of alfredo sauce clogging my arteries (seriously – who eats like that?), so i compensated with the basics – the starch (pasta), the veggies (spinach and peas) and a cheese sauce (modified, natch) from vegetarian comfort food (how appropriate) and then a topping (grated cheese and bread crumbs).

3 cups of macaroni (or enough to fill your casserole dish)
1 package of frozen chopped spinach (defrosted)
1 cup of frozen peas
2 cans of tuna
panko (bread crumbs for topping)

Defrost the spinach and squeeze the water out. Throw it in a mid-size casserole dish. Drain the water from the tuna and add it to the spinach. Boil water in a large pot – cook the macaroni and add the cup of peas just before the pasta is done – drain and add to casserole dish. While this is cooking, make your cheese sauce.

cheese sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk (skim works fine)
1 1/2 cups grated gouda
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, then gradually add 3/4 cup milk. It will start to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/4 cups of grated cheese and garlic powder. Throw in some oregano or basil if you feel like it.

Put back on the heat and add the rest of the milk, stirring until it starts to bubble. Keep stirring for the next few minutes while it gets nice and gloppy. Add some salt and pepper if you so desire. Take off the heat.

Mix the sauce into your casserole dish until everything is a nice big mess. Smooth it out and sprinkle panko (bread crumbs) and the last of the grated gouda over the top. Bake in a 400° oven for about 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and bubbling around the edges. Yummy.

variations:
I haven’t tried this out yet, but i might try some sharper cheese next time – really old cheddar or asiago or even blue cheese to add some more depth. If you like the spice, adding cayenne or chili powder to the cheese sauce would perk things right up. Let me know if you have other ideas!

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One Comment

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  1. December 14, 2008

    That sounds so good. I must try it out on my kids, as they love mac and cheese. I always put mustard in cheese sauce, as it seems to intensify the cheesiness (it’s good if you haven’t got quite enough cheese). About a teaspoonful is all you need, but put in more if you want it to taste more fiery.

    Sounds good – i’ll try it out next time!

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