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The Ultimate Tuna Noodle Casserole

January 25, 2007

The Ultimate Tuna Noodle Casserole

I have a strange weakness for casseroles. I’m not really sure where it originated. We certainly didn’t eat them growing up. In fact, I think they were almost banned. I seem to recall something about my dad being a little, er, overexposed to casseroles in his 1960s childhood, and the casserole subsequently enjoying least favored nation status in our house. The only childhood casserole I recall is the traditional Thanksgiving Green Bean casserole, but that almost doesn’t count, as Thanksgiving is incomplete with that dish. There were no hamburger pies, no cheesy chicken chili bakes, no turkey tetrazinnis in my past. So why do I get so excited by the thought of a Tater Tot Casserole now?

If you think about what most casseroles actually are, it’s hard for me to understand why people don’t like them. You basically have meat, pasta, and tons of cheese, all mixed together and baked into one-dish perfection. What could possibly be wrong with that? This was supposed to be the winter of casseroles, and it didn’t occur to me until this week that so far, there hasn’t even been one! Of course, there hasn’t really been winter until recently, either.

So tonight is the night. The night of the Ultimate Tuna Noodle Casserole.

Casserole porn

Why is this casserole so ultimate? I mean, there have been a million tuna casseroles in the world, and they are all pretty much the same, right? How can you improve on perfection? How, my friend? By being obsessive, and making what should be a twenty minute, one dish preparation process into an epic night in the kitchen.

I am making my own cream of mushroom soup. I am using non-canned, cooked-by-me from an actual tuna steak tuna. I’m using three, count them, three kinds of fabulous cheese. And broccoli. There will be broccoli, which makes almost anything ultimate. This is a casserole even my dad could love.

The Ultimate Tuna Noodle Casserole

  • 1 bag of egg noodles
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 10 oz. coarsely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 2-3 c. milk
  • about 6 oz. cooked tuna, shredded
  • about 1 1/2 c. grated cheese (I used a Spanish Mahon, Italian Truffle Cheese, and Parmesano Reggiono)
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan or asiago

Check out that serious ingredient list. I rarely cook things that require that much stuff.

The tuna was cooked over the weekend, pan seared and steamed with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. I shredded it up with a fork, and put it in the refrigerator to save specifically for this casserole.

Preheat the oven to 350F, and put a big pot of water on to boil while you make the cream of mushroom base. In another big pot, heat the olive oil and butter together, and add the shallots. Stir them around for about a minute, and add the garlic. Saute for another 30 seconds or so, then add the mushrooms. Stir them quickly so they get mostly coated in the oil and butter, then leave them alone. Let the mushrooms cook down for about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring maybe only once during this time. Add about a cup of chicken or vegetable stock, and stir it all up. Then add the flour. Using a whisk, mix the mushroom mixture with the flour until it gets kind of pasty. Then add the milk, a bit at a time, whisking and whisking and whisking. Between additions of milk, let it sit for a bit and get thick and bubbly, then add more milk. You probably want to use between 2 and 3 cups of milk, until it gets to the thickness you want. I used about two, and I’m thinking I might should have used a bit more, but was a-ok.

Look at the mushrooms!

While your soup cooks down and thickens, cook the pasta. Don’t cook it all the way, because it will cook through in the oven.

Once the mushroom base and the pasta are ready, mix the pasta, tuna, broccoli, and grated cheeses into the mushroom mix in a big ol’ pot or casserole dish. I couldn’t even use my fancy casserole dish, because there was too much stuff. This is going to be serious casserole, and a lot of it.

Gi-normous casserole

Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes at 350F. After 30 minutes, sprinkle the bread crumbs and a bit more parm on top, and stick it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. If you feel like it, you can put it under the broiler for the last minute or so, to get the cheese on top nice and browned.

Casserole crust

Just like lasagna, you have to be patient with this once it’s out of the oven. It should sit and rest and cool off for about 10 minutes.

This is a very mushroomy tuna casserole, and while I think I might prefer the way more white trash potato chip topping, the bread crumbs and parm added a bit of class. And holy crap–the truffle cheese combined with the intense mushroom flavor of the soup is pretty awesome. And because I accidently made this on a night when no one was home to eat dinner with me, there will be leftovers for days. Which is part of why I love casseroles in the first place.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2007 6:12 am

    THAT looks heavenly! I heart tuna casserole (well most casseroles for that matter!) but I’ve yet to make a good one. Even the one I love, made by a friend who gave me her recipe, always ends up sucking. So I’m going to try yours.. Although I’ll never find those cheeses around here. *sigh* So gimme an idea of what might compare (I’d KILL for Italian truffle cheese!!)? Keeping in mind that the most exotic thing in these parts (unless I make a special trip an hour away) is that bleu cheese/cheddar cheese striped combo stuff. Ugh.

    I look forward! Especially making my own cream of mushroom soup – wooo!

  2. January 26, 2007 5:35 pm

    Fabulous cheeses are available for delivery, sadly the cost of shipping a 1/2lb. of truffle cheese is almost as much as the cheese. Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, MA is awesome and they do a good job delivering perishables.

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  1. Somewhat Fancy Tuna Noodle Casserole « Comfort Table

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