Monday, July 23, 2007

A Casserole (R)evolution

I've been experimenting with the classic tuna casserole. The classic dish is simple, complete, and when properly prepared, delicious; not to mention it freezes like a dream. I thought I'd share my results (because they are delicious) with you all.

So, to refresh your memories if you haven't had a tuna casserole since 1987 here's the premise, or "proto casserole" that I used as my jumping off point:

2 cans chunk light tuna
1 can peas
1 can cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup cheese, shredded
1/2 lb cooked pasta like penne or farfalle

Combine in casserole dish (oddly enough) cover and bake on 350 (d) for 30 minutes.

Remove, let cool, devour.

what's awesome about this classic:

Easy Peasy, that's what's awesome. Aside from cooking the pasta there is nothing on the stovetop and assuming you can set the timer on your oven, it's pretty hard to screw up.

The downside:

SALT... cream of mushroom soup, at least the can that I had (Fred Meyer brand) has something like 800 mg of sodium, and that's not counting the cheese and the canned chunk light tuna that always tastes like a salt lick to me anyway.

Texture... I find canned peas about as appetizing as dog food really. They're gray and mushy, it's just unnatural. And the chunk light tuna basically disappears in the mixture so that you don't really get any solid bites of tuna.


1) Come up with a subtitute for the cream of mushroom soup.
2) Use fresh vegetables
3) Don't use the canned chunk light tuna

After some experimentation, this is what I came up with:

1 head chopped broccoli - blanched
2 cans Solid White Albacore Tuna
1/2 lb cooked pasta (like Farfalle or Penne, cooked al dente)
1/2 cup Mayo
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1/2 cup Buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup cheese

Several crumbled crackers, like Saltines (a handful)

Preheat oven to 350. To a large skillet on medium heat add your desired form of cooking fat (butter, EVOO, Canola oil) add the tuna, broken up in bite size pieces, and broccoli. Cook just until heated through.

Add Mayo, Yogurt, Buttermilk, cook for a minute or two until hot, then add eggs, seasoning and half the cheese. Cook until thick and bubbly, a few minutes.

Remove from heat and pour into a casserole dish, add pasta and stir until combined. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the crackers over dish. Cover, bake for 30 minutes. Uncover for last 5 minutes to goo-ify the cheese on top.

Try it... it's good. And Gooey.


dragon knitter said...

egg noodles are excellent in tuna casserole. they hold their texture long after other pastas would. and i use frozen peas. i mix them in frozen, and they defrost and cook, and come out nice and bright, and unmushy (we have banned canned peas from t his house, hubbie was the only one who would eat them). and there are either low-sodium versions of cream of mushroom soup, or you can make it from scratch. i like that method best, myself!

as for teh saltiness in general? i'm a saltophile (who knows what the correct term is, lol). however, i don't salt ANYTHING while i'm cooking it (left over from being a nursing home cook, as well as having at one time a husband who would not eat salt on anything, to include french fries, eggs, and popcorn (shudder))

if you want other ideas, just holler. i have a culinary arts degree, lol.

Mia said...

Well, first of all - welcome back!! And there is reduced sodium cream of mushroom soups. But you could always try some veggie broth and fresh mushrooms instead. I will go through the cookbooks and find you a casserole one. I do have the crockpot one ready to mail you though.

Mia said...

oh yeah about he salt? I use it very sparingly when I am cooking. But I never add it when I eat food. As a result, I find most processed foods to be too salty for me.

Sarah said...

Oh, I wish me and the boyfriend liked tuna. And peas. Something simple like that to cook would be great. I might have to look into casseroles more.. thanks for the idea. :-D