An updated Tuna Casserole
Once a year my husband Ed would plead with me to make one of his favorite dishes. “If you loved me, Marsha, you’d make me tuna fish casserole,” he’d beg. Not exactly a dish of kings, this meal was nostalgically comforting for him. While my friends may turn their nose up to the idea, perhaps this updated version will change their minds.
2 cups cooked pasta noodles, of any shape or size.
½ red pepper, charred over an open flame, skin removed and then chopped in ¼ inch cubes.
1 medium sized leek, white part only, thinly sliced
¼ medium sized fennel bulb, finely diced.
1-pint fresh button mushrooms, cleaned, and diced.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons dry vermouth (or1/4 cup dry white wine)
4 Tablespoons sweet butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup milk or Half and Half
1 7-oz jar tuna in olive oil, separated into large pieces (I like Tonnino tuna fillets)
½ cup frozen or fresh peas
1/3 cup homemade breadcrumbs
Turn oven on to 450⁰F.
1. Butter medium size, oven-proof casserole or 4 individual ramekins
2. Char red pepper over an open flame on the stove; place into a brown paper bag for 20 minutes; remove blackened skin; then cut into small cubes. Set aside and save excess for another use.
3. Put olive oil in a medium sized skillet.
4. Add leeks and fennel and sauté for 10 minutes until caramelized.
5. Add diced mushrooms and increase heat slightly.
6. Add vermouth and stir cooking vegetables until liquid evaporates completely.
7. Put cooked vegetables in a dish and set aside.
8. In the same skillet, make a roux for the white sauce.
9. Over a low heat, add butter and allow to melt; add flour and integrate with the melted better; stir constantly allowing it to cook completely for at least 5 minutes.
10. Slowly add in broth and stir until mixture thickens.
11. When lightly browned, add milk or half and half and continue stirring.
12. Once sauce is of a desired thickness, add in cooked pasta, tuna in large chunks, red pepper, peas and vegetables. When everything is thoroughly mixed and ingredients are warmed up, transfer to a casserole or dish out into small ramekins
13. Sprinkle bread crumbs on the top.
14. Place in the hot oven until tops are golden brown and mixture bubbling hot, 3-5 minutes.
15. Serve with a green vegetable and salad with vinaigrette dressing.
Wine recommendations: Muscadet, Grillo, Cerasuolo rosé, Bandol rosé, Inzolia, Assyrtiko.