I often poke fun at myself and my style of cooking by referring to some of my most-often-prepared meals as "70s mom food". Of course, this is mostly self-deprecating, but it's also true, as I really DO love a good casserole. The dish I've been making the longest (and that is enjoyed by the most people I've cooked for) is my Tuna Noodle Casserole. I know, I know... the combo of cheese and pasta and tuna is nothing new or exciting and most suburban white kids in my generation grew up eating some variation of this dish, but I've tweaked the recipe so much over the years that for me, it does feel new and exciting compared to the version I ate as a kid.
I use different cheeses than my mother did, the standard egg noodles were switched out for tri-color rotini many years ago, the tuna is higher quality and has better flavor, and I've added in a lot of different flavors via herbs and spices. The basic principles of my mother's Tuna Noodle Casserole are there, but the details are different.
Here's what you'll need:
- 3 cans of tuna (I generally use 2 cans of "good" tuna like TJ's or Rubensteins, and 1 can of "cheap" tuna, like Bumblebee or Chicken of the Sea)
- 1 bag of tri-color rotini (We like Wacky Mac)
- 2 TBSP butter
- 2 TBSP flour
- 2 cups milk (we use whole)
- a handful or two of frozen peas
- CHEESE (I used parmesan, sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and gouda)
- herbs & spices (salt, pepper, basil, parsley, garlic powder, oregano)
Once you've got your pasta and peas going, flake the tuna apart and add it to the sauce. Most of your cheese will go on top of the casserole once it's in the dish, but I like to add the parmesan to the sauce at this point. Also add any herbs and spices you want in your sauce. I like using frozen chopped basil, black pepper, and dried parsley and garlic powder.
Once your pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander and move it to a 9x13 casserole dish (I like using glass for this). Sprinkle the buttered peas in among the pasta. With a slotted spoon, start scooping the sauce onto the pasta, evenly distributing the solid tuna. Once you've got the chunks out, pour the liquid part of the sauce as evenly as possible over the pasta. Sprinkle grated cheese on top until you can barely see the stuff underneath.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and put it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. If you like your cheese more golden than melty, broil on low for 2-3 minutes at the end.