The Era of the Casserole
The first year I was married, I learned to make a popular tuna-noodle casserole with help from a can of Campbell’s mushroom soup. The “meal-in-one” was cheap, quick, adaptable, and, best of all, required no cooking skills. Yes, Chicken of the Sea and Campbell’s got me through many a day as a new housewife, finishing up my last year in college.
The classic casserole is made with egg noodles, canned tuna, frozen peas, and mushroom soup diluted with milk. All is topped with Cheddar cheese and crushed potato chips, or bread crumbs. Many have attempted to gussy up the old recipe with chic ingredients such as dried porcini mushrooms, Mozzarella, sherry wine, or thyme. The Australians have further refined the dish by calling it Tuna Mornay.
The Fancified Recipe
Bon Appetit featured a version that incudes leeks, fresh dill and Gruyere. While famed chef J. Kenji Lopez-Alt adds crème fraiche and lemon juice. The Pioneer Woman cranks things up with a cup of sour cream.
Choose the retro version that’s sauced with canned soup or one of those made from scratch. Either way, you’ve got a blue-ribbon dish for potlucks, family dinners, or a freeze-ahead meal.
1950’s Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 8 oz. dried egg noodles, cooked al dente (about 3-4 cups cooked)
- 2 (5-oz each) cans white albacore tuna
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 3/4 cup frozen peas (or peas/carrot mixture)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1-1/2 cups coarsely crushed potato chips\
- Fresh parsley for garish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 1.5 qt. casserole dish. (Recipe makes 4 servings. Use an 9″x9″” dish for one recipe or, if doubled, use a 9″x13″ dish).
Cook noodles in large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions. Undercook them slightly since they will cook more when in the oven.
In a large bowl combined can of mushroom soup and milk. Stir till smooth. Gently add cooked and drained noodles and flaked tuna. Taste for seasoning. (It’s usually salty enough for me.) Gently stir in frozen peas—no need to cook. Transfer mixture to casserole dish, sprinkle with shredded cheese and top with crushed potato chips.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Edges will be bubbly and the chips slightly brown. Leftovers freeze well, though if making entire dish for later it’s best to freeze without cooked noodles and add those after the sauce is thawed.