October 15, 2013

It's Tuna Noodle Casserole Day!

Hello friends! I hope that you'll stick with me today as I discuss my tuna noodle casserole, or as my husband likes to call it, Hot Dish.

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.

Which I guess is fine and all, and I'm sure my carnivore husband is jealous, but I didn't really love all that meat. I hated steak. I did/do love roast beef, but what I really wanted to eat was.....

....a casserole.

I have to share a little bit of personal. Because I am an oversharer. It's not a big secret or anything, but still, a bit of sharing. My parents got on...how do you say? NOT WELL. They finally did us all a giant favor and removed themselves from their marital state shortly before I went to law school. I tell you this so you will understand my casserole obsession.

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.

So that was a very long winded way of saying that I'm pretty fascinated by casseroles. The very first cookbook I bought was a book solely devoted to casseroles. I read it over and over, bookmarking all of the magical casseroles I was going to make. (I think I ended up only making one or two from that book.)

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.


  1. Growing up in Kansas, I've eaten a lot of casseroles. They are a staple midwestern church potlucks, and my mother's tuna noodle casserole is well-loved by my sister and me. (She makes mine tuna-less now, often with big heaps of fresh mushrooms.) But ours was the not-so-fine variety. Meaning that it used Campbell's cream of soups, Velveeta, and crumbled potato chips on top. Confession: I asked her to make it for me when we went to visit this weekend. I hardly ever touch Velveeta, but for that, I'll make an exception.

    1. can you believe I never ever had tuna noodle casserole until i bought a Stouffer's frozen food version in my 20's??? I loved it! I never had Velveeta until I was about 25. I was like, what is this MAGIC ELIXIR???

  2. Thank you for sharing your story! It's always touching to read about people's childhood as there is something always familiar with our own life. My taste for food nowadays is heavily influenced by my childhood as well. I would love to try the tuna casserole! And the shepherd's pie too (because my mom would give us shepherd's pie as an after-school snack :D)

    1. I love shepherd's pie too, i use the recipe from....The Joy of Cooking! Such a great cookbook! :)

  3. Ooooo now I'm totally craving a casserole.

  4. You have motivated me to make this! I mean, I'm really going to do it! I even pulled out my own Joy of Cooking, looked up the recipe and I already have everything I need-- so I have to make it. I have memories of tuna noodle casserole from my childhood. Whenever my dad was in charge of dinner, which was not often, he either made tuna noodle casserole or beef stew. He probably made some other things too, but those are the two things I remember consistently. And his tuna noodle casserole was totally the gloopy, condensed soup variety-- which I don't remember minding as a kid but not seems pretty gross. And you got me thinking about casseroles. Zach is from Montana (kind of midwest?) and introduced me to tater-tot casserole. Have you had this?! I think it deserves it's own blog post, at some point, when you can get around to it. ;)

    1. Miss Megan! I'm so thrilled you're going to give this a whirl. I LOVE it and hope you love it too! I have not had tater tot casserole, but tater tots are another thing that used to endlessly enthrall me because I can promise you, my mom, bless her, never cooked a tater tot in all of her life. When I taught preschool for a bit after college, I was introduced to green beans in a can, and I thought that was marvelous too. With ketchup!

  5. This reminds me of something my grandma used to make. *sigh* Sweet memories. <3 Now I want to make it for my kiddos. :0)

    1. Hi Mary! I just checked out your Blogger page -- you write YA fiction?? We need to talk! My grandma made baked bean and hotdog casserole and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. My other grandma made her chile con queso with Velveeta and I thought it was the most magical thing in the world. :)

  6. that is a sad and wonderful story. funny how things come to fruition. when i was a kid we ate a TON of casseroles. and 99% of them were tuna noodle casseroles. i didn't hate them, but i also didn't love them. they sure did stretch the dollar though. or so i was told. if i made that my husband would more than likely complain that he wasn't eating roast chicken. which i make, a lot.
    i had zero roasted meat as a kid. most shit was a casserole or frozen.

    1. i'm telling you. go make this for your husband and I dare him to complain! I dare him! :)

  7. I'm certain I've never eaten Tuna Casserole (and not sure I'm ready to try it yet) But I am sure that I loved every bit of this post. It was wonderful. xoxox

    1. Oh it's really good! You'll like it!!! (this is what I tell Julia all the time, whenever she looks at me sceptically when I produce some strange food item....like scrambled eggs.)