Tuna Casserole Americaine

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  8 servings
Prep Time:  10 minutes Cook Time:  1 hour 5 minutes

Tuna Casserole Americaine

This my version of a mid-century classic. It's the ultimate comfort food for my mid-century dad.

Ingredients

1½ packages (20 ounces) extra-wide egg noodles

3 teaspoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

4 cans albacore tuna in oil, with the oil drained and reserved (see Kitchen Tip)

3 cups fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons diced celery

1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon celery seed

¾ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cups sharp white cheddar, shredded

¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly shredded (we prefer Parmigiano Reggiano)

1 cup frozen petite peas

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Prepare a 3-quart baking pan with a spritz of nonstick spray.
  2. Fill a large pasta pot with water, cover the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, saving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  3. Meanwhile, place a very large saucepan over high heat. As soon as it is warmed up, add the butter and reserved tuna oil, swirling the pan until the butter melts. Add the mushrooms and celery and cook until the mushrooms have softened and released some liquid, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the pepper, salt, and celery seed. Add the flour and mix with a spoon until the flour is toasty white and has dissolved into the fat, 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture should not turn brown. Set aside.
  4. In a small sauce pan, warm the milk, cream, and cream cheese, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally until the cheese has melted.
  5. Slowly add the milk mixture to the mushrooms and mix, breaking up any flour clumps. Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Add the cheddar cheese and mix. Add the Parmesan cheese and mix. Add the reserved pasta water and mix. Stir in the tuna and peas.
  7. Add the noodles to the pot and mix to combine. Pour into the baking dish. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes uncovered, if you like a crunchy top, or loosely covered with foil, for a soft casserole.

Kitchen Tips

  1. Purchase line-caught canned tuna with dolphin-safe labeling on the can.
  2. Although peas are a classic addition, this recipe works well with a variety of vegetables. Try substituting peeled, diced broccoli stems, frozen baby spinach (well squeezed) or even frozen and drained artichoke hearts (never canned or jarred).
  3. Although there are copious health benefits to fish, and tuna especially, try limiting servings to prevent mercury issues, especially when feeding the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, or any kids under 12.

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