Updated Tuna Noodle Casserole

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Comforting and reminiscent of childhood, casseroles are one of those dishes that’s just hard not to love. This updated tuna noodle casserole takes all of the flavors we love in the classic dish and elevates them with the addition of fresh peas, mushrooms and fennel, great-quality tuna, and nary a canned soup concentrate in sight.

Scalloped potatoes more your style? We have an update on those, too! Plus a fresh take on freezer-section favorite French bread pizza.

Updated Tuna Noodle Casserole

Updated Tuna Noodle Casserole

Recipe by Chef Kathleen Blake

One day at the now-shuttered Rusty Spoon, Chef-Owner Kathleen Blake had leftover albacore tuna belly and trim left from another recipe. She improvised and used it in a fresh-fish update to an old-fashioned tuna casserole and served it as a lunch special. It was a hit.

Updated Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serves 8

1 pound fresh albacore tuna, poached, or high-quality oil-packed tuna

Olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, diced small

1 fennel bulb, diced small; set aside fronds for garnish

2 teaspoons garlic, chopped

½ pound shiitake, oyster or button mushrooms, sliced

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped, divided

1¾ cup whole milk

½ pound cream cheese, diced small

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

6 ounces fresh English peas, blanched (can substitute frozen peas, or sugar snap peas cut on bias and blanched)

1 pound wide egg noodles, uncooked

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1 cup unflavored breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon garlic powder

4 ounces powdered pecorino

To make the tuna:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place fresh tuna in a baking dish. Add olive oil to just cover. Bake for 15 minutes or until just cooked through. Drain. Break apart flesh with a fork and set aside. (Note: Oil can be strained and stored in the refrigerator for up to three months. Use to flavor pasta, vegetables or salad dressing.)
To make the casserole:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Place butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan and melt over medium heat.
  3. Add the onion, fennel and garlic and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add half the thyme leaves and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Place milk in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until just warm. Whisk in cream cheese until smooth and thick. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the cooked or canned tuna and the English or sugar snap peas.
  5. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles until al dente. Drain and rinse under cool water. Gently fold in the vegetables, tuna, sauce and parsley. Pour the mixture in to a 2½-quart baking dish.
  6. In a small bowl, toss the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon olive oil and the remaining thyme leaves with the garlic powder and pecorino. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the noodle mixture. Bake for up to 45 minutes, until the noodles are piping hot and the crumbs are golden brown. Garnish with fennel fronds.
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