Mr. MarthaAndMe LOVES tuna noodle casserole. He asks for it for his birthday dinner every year. I never had tuna noodle casserole until I met him (my parents fooled around with all kinds of crazy food things, but never anything so traditional!). And I have to admit I’ve never been a big fan of it. Over the years, I’ve learned to make it so that I can choke it down. Usually I use 2 cans of tuna, one can of cream of mushroom soup, and egg noodles and I add in mushrooms, broccoli, peas, Worchestershire, Italian herbs, and lots and lots of cheese. Even so, I’ve never really cared for it.
In the September edition of Martha Stewart Everyday Food, Martha has a section on foods made using a bechamel sauce, one of which is tuna noodle casserole. I knew Mr. MarthaAndMe would be happy to find tuna noodle casserole on his plate for dinner, so I gave it a try. First I made the bechamel sauce, which is very easy – cook some onions (1/4 cup chopped) in 3 Tbsp butter, add flour (1/4 cup – I doubled this to make it thicker) to make a roux then stir in milk (4 cups) and let it thicken. It does take some time to make, but it’s not hard at all.
I cooked the green beans (10 oz – what a great idea – I never thought to add those!) and then cooked my whole wheat spirals (1/2 lb). I mixed the tuna (2 cans) with the noodles, beans and bechamel sauce and poured it into a casserole dish. Then I used some whole wheat bread (5 slices) to make breadcrumbs and mixed them with melted butter (2 Tbsp) and poured them on top. That was it! This was incredibly easy.
I baked it at 350 for about 45 minutes and it came out bubbly, warm and pretty. And here’s the newsflash. I actually liked it! All these years that I’ve been making this for him, it never occurred to me to substitute a real sauce for that nasty canned cream of mushroom soup. If only I’d known! This was simple, but very tasty. I loved having the beans in it. They gave it some substance and balanced out the creaminess of the sauce. The breadcrumbs on top are the perfect touch (in the past, I’ve used crumbled crackers or potato chips). This is really a terrific recipe.