This is not your mother’s tuna casserole, although I do love the traditional tuna casserole that debuted in the 50’s. When Campbell’s canned soup appeared on the scene, our mothers thought they were liberated and tossed their aprons aside! However, because of that most gals in my generation had no one to teach them how to make a basic béchamel sauce! Although, it is definitely easier to open a can, but by preparing your own sauce, you know what you are adding and you can tweak it for your seasoning choice.
Old-fashioned tuna noodle casserole is one of my ultimate comfort foods, however, my sweet hubby doesn’t agree. That is about the only food he prefers not to eat! So…when the boys were young and he had to travel on business, guess what we ate? Yep, the ultimate comfort food, tuna noodle casserole. As I reflect back on those days, I probably needed all the comfort I could grab managing three active rough and tumble boys with an absent father! I added lots of cheese to the mix and topped it all with crushed potato chips! (pre-high cholesterol days)
Nowadays, I attempt to make some of these old-fashioned recipes a bit more health friendly. Today I traded white egg noodles, for whole grain pasta. I added a shallot, pimentos and peas, left out the cheese and topped with homemade croutons made from sprouted grain English muffins.
Begin by sautéing in 2 T. olive oil a shallot that has been finely chopped. Shallots have a milder sweeter taste than a regular onion. They are used frequently in French cooking. You could substitute regular onion for this recipe. Shallots can over cook easily. You want them to come out soft and slightly caramelized, not crunchy and bitter.
When tender, add 2 T. Smart Balance Butter Blend. (or regular butter) Add 1/3 c. unbleached flour, 1 t. salt and freshly ground pepper and stir well over medium heat.
Add 2 c. of milk and 1 T. vegetable bouillon and continue stirring until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. This is your béchamel sauce, or basic white sauce. At this point you could add cheese to make a cheese sauce if desired.
I keep several jars of Better Than Bouillon in my fridge, chicken, beef and vegetarian. They are perfect to add to soups, stews and sauces.
Cook 3 c. of pasta as directed on package. Drain.
Mix pasta, 2 small cans of tuna, white sauce, 2 c. cooked peas and 1 jar pimentos. If it is too thick you can add some more milk at this point. When I made this recipe years ago, it was at this point I add huge globs of Velveeta cheese!
Dice 2 English muffins into 1/2” cubes. (you may also use any type of bread…no potato chips please!) I love this seasoning blend from Penzeys. (www.penzeys.com) This is a fabulous company and order from them on a regular basis. This Sandwich Sprinkle blend contains, salt, garlic, black pepper, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram.
Melt 3 T. Smart Balance Butter Blend and toss with bread cubes over medium high heat. Continue to stir frequently until browned and crispy.
I am taking half of this casserole to my parents for their supper, so I divided this recipe into two portions. I shouldn’t have snitched so many of the croutons out of the pan…looks a bit skimpy!
This dish has a tendency to look a bit anemic on a plate, so I steamed some carrots for a side. I use this steam basket for most of my vegetables, unless I roast them in the oven. Put 1/2 c. water in the bottom, bring to boil and steam for about 5-7 minutes. They will still be firm, but not crunchy. Toss with 1 T. butter blend.
In case you’re wondering if my honey ate this…yes he did with no complaints!
This may not be your mother’s old-fashioned tuna casserole, but it still gives me lots of comfort!
Kicked Up Tuna Casserole
2 sm. cans water packed tuna, drained well
2 c. cooked peas
3 c. uncooked pasta
1 sm. jar pimentos
1 shallot, chopped fine
1 T. bouillon
2 T. olive oil
5 T. Butter Blend (divided, use 3 T. to make croutons)
2 c. milk
1/3 c. unbleached flour
Sauté shallot in 2 T. oil until tender. Add 2 T. butter blend and 1/3 c. flour. Stir well over medium heat. Add milk and bouillon and continue stirring until thickened. Remove from heat. Add peas, pimentos and cooked pasta and mix well. Place in oiled baking dish and top with croutons. Bake 350 for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and hot.