Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuna Noodle Casserole


March 26 - Tuna Noodle Casserole & Shuba's homemade Butter Chicken & Saag Paneer
March 27 - dinner out at Queen Margherita Pizza (our new regular spot is seems)
March 28 - leftover pizza from QMP
March 29 - Meatless Tuesday - Creamy Polenta with Greens & Cheese, mache salad with cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette

I was raised on Tuna Noodle Casserole.  The kind with a can of tuna and a can of cream of mushroom soup, sometimes Mom would add peas, though I have to admit I'd always pick around them.  It was actually one of my favorites too.  I think mom made it because it was ridiculously easy and for the most part it was something she could count on all of us kids eating. I will admit I made the gloopy delicious goodness a few times in college and maybe even after.  While it's not one of my crave worthy comfort foods, it definitely has those comfort food qualities being something I grew up on and remember so vividly and let's be honest carbs generally make anything comfort food in my book.


As a result of all of this I was pretty excited when Food Network Canada chose this tuna casserole as the NO YOLKS March Challenge.  I thought about different ways I could tweak the recipe, but in the end I followed it fairly closely the major changes being the additions of pancetta, because bacon makes everything better, swapping out the green pepper for red (I hate green pepper) and taking a page from Mom's book by topping my casserole with potato chips.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
adapted from Food Network Canada & No Yolks
serves 4

2 oz of pancetta - cubes
1 Tbsp approx. unsalted butter
1 small onion - finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper - cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
2 Tbsps flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup froze peas
1 5 oz can of light, water-packed tuna - drained & flaked
3 cups  NO YOLKS noodles - cooked according to package directions
1/3 cup crushed potato chips, like Lays

1.  Preheat oven to 350F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain.  Wipe out the pot and place over medium heat.  Add in cubed pancetta and cook until the fat had rendered out and the pancetta is crispy. Remove and reserve the crisp pancetta.
2.  Add the butter to the pot, depending on how much fat has rendered (you want about 1 1/2 Tbsps in the pot).  Still cooking over medium heat, add the onion, bell pepper and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring frequently, to avoid browning, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, about 5-8 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to combine.  Add salt, thyme and pepper and stir again.
3. Stream in the evaporated milk, stirring constantly, scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the pot.  Add peas, simmer for 3 minutes, stirring frequently or until milk had thickened.
4. Stir in tuna and noodles.  Spoon mixture into a large shallow baking dish that has been lightly oiled.  Sprinkle crushed chips over noodles.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the noodles and chips have lightly browned. remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before serving.

I actually made this to bring to a friends house on Saturday night.  The boys were getting together to watch hockey and I was lured by promises of homemade authentic Indian food.  Well I can't go anywhere without bringing food and while I was more than happy with Indian, there was one guest whose little belly couldn't really handle the spice, giving me the perfect excise to make the tuna casserole.   It was such a hit with him that he asked to take leftovers home!

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