I have to share a little story about Tiny Melissa, when I was very small. I did not grow up in a casserole-eating household. My mother liked to cook French inspired cuisine, and my father was a total carnivore, and dinner in my home was often The Trinity of Dinner: some kind of meat, potato and a veggie or salad. We ate a lot of steak, a lot of roasts of various kinds. My mother was very big into roasts. Roast chicken. A LOT. If it was meat and could be roasted, that's what we ate.
To me, casseroles always epitomized everything that was warm and cozy and comforting about dinner, which was decidedly not any of those things when I was growing up, much of the time. Because we so rarely ate that kind of food, I really wanted it. I wanted Comfort Food. I guess what I really wanted was comfort period, but I would also really have liked it to have been in my food.
I wanted mealtime, and my food, to be the way I experienced it in books. Casseroles, country desserts on farms or prairies, or huge British tables set out with tea, baked beans on toast, cakes with whipped cream and jam, and pies and pies and more pies set out at church parties or fairs (we didn't go to church, so I was fascinated with that too). Popcorn ball trees and doughnut bushes. (there are the most wonderful magical treat-bearing trees and plants in the 'Raggedy Ann' books!)
OH FOR ALL THE WORLD'S PANCAKES (see here for the reference), how I loved reading about food in books. I'm not even sure really eating all of that kind of food is as wonderful as reading about it.
If I had to pick one cookbook to take to a desert island, it would be 'The Joy of Cooking'. It has everything, pretty much. When I was 18 and just getting into cooking, I would read it over and over like a novel. There used to be a candy-making chapter in one of the older editions (which sadly is not in the newest version) that I used to read over every Christmas.
(Never made any of the candy, sounded too hard with all the candy thermometer stuff, but I really enjoyed reading about it!)
And I love the Tuna Noodle Casserole in 'The Joy of Cooking'. I added the cornflakes on top the last time I made it, and oh is THAT a mighty fun thing! I've also made their version of Shepherd's Pie and that is delightful as well.
So please enjoy this recipe. My daughter loves it, and she normally won't touch tuna with a ten foot pole. Everything is in balance here. Not too much tuna, not too much cheese, not slimy or canned soup-y, you make your own sauce. It's lovely and creamy, and on some days, I think I might even like it better than Macaroni and Cheese, which is really saying something.
TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE (via 'The Joy of Cooking')
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup red or green bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 and 1/2 cups milk
3/4 to 1 cup grated Cheddar
2 6-ounce cans water or oil packed tuna, drained
2 cups cooked egg noodles (or other pasta)
1/4 cup minced fresh parley (i never use this)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup dry unseasoned breadcrumbs, fine cracker crumbs, or crushed corn flakes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 1 and 1/2 to 2 quart shallow baking dish.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until bubbly. Add the vegetables and cook about 5 minutes. Stir in flour. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in milk. Return to heat and cook, whisking, until the sauce comes to a boil and is thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the cheese, whisking until melted.
Turn the tuna into a bowl and flake with a fork. Do not mince. Stir in the hot cheese sauce, then add the cooked noodles, parsley if using, and salt/pepper to taste. Mix together well. Pour the mixture into a baking dish. Mix together the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the top.
Bake until bubbly and browned on top, 25-35 minutes.
Friends! This is so delicious. It is such comfort food. It is such good food for fall. It's such good.....HOT DISH.