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Homemade Tuna Noodle Casserole without Canned Soup

It might be summer, but I’m in the mood for comfort food.  The theme of this week’s Summer Fest is peas, but when I started brainstorming ideas for a fresh and summery recipe involving peas, I kept coming back to comfort food.  It might have been the cloudy weather we had earlier in the week or it might have been the terrible, no good day I had yesterday, but when I thought of peas there were only two ways I wanted to eat them – in a tuna casserole or with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.  I opted for the casserole, which is serious comfort food for me.

The thing about tuna noodle casserole is that I have this idea in my head about what it should taste like, but when I actually make the casserole using my mom’s recipe, I’m always at least a little bit disappointed.  Yes, it tastes familiar and I’m instantly transported back to my childhood, but my grown-up taste buds realize that it’s really not that great.  So I decided to remake this childhood classic to try to make it taste as good to me now as my mom’s casserole tasted to me when I was a kid.

I didn’t change much because I really do want it to be the same casserole.  I just needed to get rid of that can of cream of mushroom soup and add a bit more flavor.  I did this by sauteing some finely chopped onions, mushrooms, and celery in butter until the vegetables started to caramelize a bit and used that as a base for the sauce.  I also threw in some thyme to add just a little extra boost.

The results were just what I wanted.  It looks like my mom’s tuna noodle casserole, it smells like my mom’s tuna noodle casserole, and this one tastes just as good to me today as my mom’s casserole tasted then.  This is a homemade tuna noodle casserole that should satisfy both kids and adults!

Yields eight servings

Homemade Tuna Noodle Casserole
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12 ounces wide egg noodles

1 medium onion, finely chopped

8 ounces cremini mushrooms (can substitute white button), finely chopped

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

7 tablespoons butter, divided

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups whole milk

2 small (5 oz) cans of chunk tuna (water or olive-oil packed), drained and flaked into small pieces

1 1/2 cups peas (either frozen or fresh peas that have been shelled and blanched)

6 ounces medium cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 13x9-inch baking dish.

Cook egg noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water until almost tender; drain, rinse briefly under cold water, and return to pot off the heat.

Meanwhile, heat milk in microwave or on the stove just until warm then set aside off the heat.

Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat and cook onions, mushrooms, and celery with a generous pinch of salt until all the water from the mushrooms has evaporated and the mixture is starting to brown and smell really great, about 12-15 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook for a few seconds until fragrant and then stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute (mixture will be quite dry - that's okay). Turn up heat to medium-high and pour milk into the flour mixture, whisking to break up any clumps. Stir constantly until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Turn off heat and season well with salt and black pepper to taste.

Add sauce to the noodles in the pot along with the peas and tuna. Stir everything together well and at the very end stir in the shredded cheddar cheese. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish.

Melt remaining three tablespoons of butter and toss with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle buttered crumbs over the top of the casserole. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the bread crumbs are evenly browned and filling is bubbly. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.



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Summer Fest 2013 Posting Schedule

June 19: Berries
June 26: Peas

July 3: Corn
July 10: Tomatoes
July 17: Watermelon
July 24: Cucumbers
July 31: Peaches

August 7: Eggplant
August 14: Avocados
August 21: Peppers
August 28: Figs

September 4: Beets
September 11: Grapes
September 18: Potatoes