Baking & cooking with an enthusiastic amateur

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Topped with crunchy French-Fried onions, this casserole is a warm and tasty classic.

Wait! Come back! I know what you’re imagining: A huge casserole vat filled with goopy sauce and sad noodles, all pulled together by a high-sodium, fat-filled, super-processed can of cream-o’-stuff soup.

That is not what this is. Instead, this was born of my desire for a dish that tied together the fresh celery I had on hand, the canned tuna to provide some variety in my source of protein, and the pasta to clean out the cupboards.

When I was cooking this, both my roommate and her visiting friend were skeptical, no doubt envisioning something goopy and sad. I tried to assure them that would not be the case, but in the ensuing conversation, somehow the notion of ordering pizza instead arose.

“OK,” I agreed. “If the casserole is gross, we’re making a pact right now that we’ll order pizza instead.”

“Yes!” exclaimed my roommate enthusiastically. “We can get the buttery, garlicky-crusted pizza from Domino’s!” Her friend nodded in assent.

I sat nervously while the casserole baked. On the one hand, failure would be sad. I hate wasting food, and I didn’t want to ruin my fairly good track record of feeding people with a disastrous casserole. I’d put a lot of work into this, and I thought it was a nifty spin on a retro dish. Also, I shouldn’t be wasting money on ordering delivery food. On the other hand, if it failed, there would be pizza! I decided that either way, this would be a good evening.

When the casserole emerged from the oven, my roommate admitted that it smelled good, and didn’t look nearly as frightening as she anticipated. At dinner, she not only finished her portion, but went to get seconds! Her friend was also pretty impressed, and I was quite pleased. Granted, despite being homemade, this still isn’t the healthiest dish, but it packs a decent amount of protein, is delicious, and is cheaper than ordering a pizza!

Even your casserole-wary friends will be pleasantly surprised by this dish once they dig in!

Tuna Noodle Casserole
4 stalks celery, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed in a small bowl with 1/2 tablespoon water
1 ounce of cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces of elbow macaroni, cooked al dente according to package
4 ounces (one small can) of tuna, drained well
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup french-fried onions (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On medium-low heat, saute the celery in the butter for 15 minutes, stirring often. The celery should become somewhat translucent and shrink slightly. Add the milk and bring to barely simmering; stir in the cornstarch and water mixture. This should thicken it slightly. Stir, not letting it go above a simmer, for 30 seconds.

Stir in the cheddar cheese. Stir in the macaroni and tuna until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

Pour into a casserole dish and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle on the french-fried onions, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Makes three servings.
Cost per serving: $1.20
Nutrition per serving: 329 calories, 12g fat, 6g saturated fat, 37g carbs, 2.5g fiber, 18g protein.

Unlike casserole made with condensed, canned soup, this dish has lots of celery, providing another layer of flavor and texture.

On Tweaking:

  • The french-fried onions provide 30 calories and 2 grams of fat (including 1g saturated fat) per serving. Additionally, they’re something a lot of people may not have on hand. If desired, skip these or instead sprinkle on some crushed saltine cracker crumbs or breadcrumbs.
  • To reduce the fat, use low-fat cheese, only use half a tablespoon of butter, or both. It may make your result a smidge less rich and creamy, but it will still be tasty!

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This entry was posted on June 15, 2012 by in Dinners, Seafood and tagged , .
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