Not to be confused with what your mother called “Tuna Fish and Noodles” made with a can of condensed soup.
I know I shouldn’t be turning the oven on so often in the summer, but sometimes it’s just nice to throw everything in one dish and into the oven, and then clean up before dinner is ready. This is one of my favorite casseroles for both texture and intense flavor—you can’t accuse the tuna of being bland, and if you add the right mushrooms, that adds a terrific meaty texture that you don’t get from the tuna. Surely someone out there has made a variation of this dish with fresh tuna, and while I’ve been tempted, I have yet to try it.
Pre-heat oven to 350°
Grease a 9″ square or 11″ x 7″ ovenproof dish
- 8 oz Kluski noodles, boiled for the minimum suggested cooking time—this noodle holds up to being cooked twice and still has a nice tooth after being baked in the oven
- 12-15 oz chunk light tuna packed in oil—I like tuna packed in oil because it seems to have a richer flavor than that packed in water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil for sautéing onions and mushrooms
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3/4 lb shiitake mushroom caps, sliced—this is our favorite, my husband’s for the flavor, mine for the texture
- 2-3 cups medium white sauce (see ingredients and basic recipe below)—it seems like a lot of sauce for only 8 oz of noodles, but they do soak up a lot of sauce
- salt and pepper to taste—salt the layers as you go along
Boil the noodles while you sauté the onions and mushrooms. The mushrooms can absorb a ton of oil, but don’t be lured into using too much. Make the white sauce in the same pan in which you sauté the vegetables; adjust how much butter you use for the white sauce if you still see a lot of oil in the pan. When the sauce nears a boil, add the tuna and continue to cook until slightly thickened. I made three cups of sauce, but used only 5 tablespoons of flour instead of the 6 called for to keep the sauce from becoming too thick in the oven.
Add the drained noodles to the sauce or mix it in the baking dish. You can add breadcrumbs or grated cheddar cheese to the top before baking. Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes.
Medium White Sauce
I learned how to make white sauce in junior high when girls had to take Home Ec while the boys were in shop class. I even remember the recipe we made—Eggs á la Goldenrod. White sauce is such a basic component of so many dishes that you simply need to memorize this formula:
For every 1 cup of sauce, use
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup of milk
Melt the butter over medium low heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper until all the flour is incorporated. It will be a very thick mixture. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring continuously. You shouldn’t get any lumps, but I notice that current recipes suggest whisking. I never had to use a whisk to avoid lumps, but I think the slow addition of the milk is key. Continue to stir, lowering the heat to a simmer if your stove cooks hot, until thickened.
You can see that there are equal amounts of butter and flour, and you can even mix equal amounts of softened butter and flour to make a paste that can be dropped into boiling liquid as a thickener—a good way to turn your boiling chicken or turkey stock into gravy. I’m pretty sure you can freeze such butter and flour balls.
Think of the ways you can vary the recipe, using half and half or stock for milk, or adding shredded cheese for cheese sauce for your macaroni and cheese. Add herbs to the sauce or sautéed onions, etc. White sauce is the basis of the best scalloped potatoes.