I grew up Catholic in the 1950's and '60's, which meant that my family ate a lot of tuna noodle casseroles on Friday nights. My mom made a company-worthy version of this standard that she got from Better Homes and Gardens magazine. She scooped the tuna/noodle mixture into a ring mold, baked it, unmolded it and poured peas into the center hole. We all thought that my mom was a gourmet cook! My Uncle Bill requested this "elegant" entree (remember, this was the 1950's) whenever he visited.
The Campbell Soup Company created tuna noodle casserole in the 1940's to highlight their Cream of Mushroom Soup. This gave American housewives the chance to mimic French housewives’ béchamel sauce simply by opening a can of condensed soup and adding tuna. Voila! French cooking a la American.
With all due respect to French cooks, we Americans can make white sauce without the help of Campbells. Here, adapted from Skinnytaste.com, is the tuna noodle casserole of my youth made without sodium-laden condensed soup. It's healthier, it's lower in fat and best of all, it tastes just like Mom's. Maybe even better!
6 oz. egg noodles
1 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 oz. dry sherry (optional)
10 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 (5-oz.) cans tuna packed in water, drained
4 oz. reduced-fat cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp. seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9" X 12" casserole with cooking spray.
Cook noodles in salted water until al dente, or slightly undercooked. Drain and set aside.
Melt butter in a large skillet and add onions. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and stir well. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth until well combined, increasing heat to medium and whisking for 30 seconds, then add milk and bring to a boil.
When boiling, add sherry, mushrooms and peas, adjust salt and pepper to taste and simmer on medium, stirring occasionally, until it thickens (about 7 to 9 minutes).
Add tuna, stirring another minute.
Remove from heat and add cheddar cheese. Mix well until it melts. Add noodles and mix well until evenly coated.
Pour into casserole and top with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Spray a little more cooking spray on top and bake for about 25 minutes.
Place under the broiler a few minutes to get the crumbs crisp. (Be careful not to burn.)