Dinner For Two: Tuna Noodle Casserole

I think the difference between high-end restaurant food and a good home-cooked meal is a sauce.  A well-made, carefully seasoned sauce.

I used to be okay with my risotto method.  I always sought out Carnaroli rice, deglazed with a very drinkable wine, and finished with a generous pat of butter.  It was good—predictable, but good. Then, I had risotto at Big Sur Bakery that was perched on top of a pool of rich salty broth.  It was a heavenly sauce.  Each bite of creamy risotto was made even better with a dip in silky beef stock.  I now pair my risotto with a similar sauce.  I’ll have to share this recipe another day.

Same thing with my pot stickers.  I go through the trouble to make a delicious scallion-ginger chicken filling, sear the dumplings properly and serve them with a small bowl of soy for dipping.  But, after pot stickers in Japantown in San Francisco, I realized that dipping sauce is not just soy:  it’s soy with the tiniest droplets of sesame oil scattered across the surface, toasted chile flakes and finely minced scallion.  What a difference a sauce can make in a standby recipe.

It’s not easy to find the energy or time on a weeknight to make a great sauce.  But, let’s do tuna noodle casserole right.  Let’s make it with a rich cream sauce, and take the effort to sauté fresh vegetables.  What you end up with is a decadent meal for two that you wish made enough for leftovers….sorry ‘bout that.


Dinner For Two: Tuna Noodle Casserole
 
Makes 2 servings.
Ingredients
For the sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
For the filling:
  • 2 cups egg noodles
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ½ cup chopped cremini mushrooms
  • ½ cup finely diced celery
  • ½ cup peas
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 6-oz. can tuna packed in water, drained
  • ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. First, make the sauce. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour slowly and cook for 1-2 minutes while constantly stirring. Next, slowly pour in the milk and cream while whisking. Continue to cook over low heat until mixture thickens and comes to a bubble. Stir in salt, pepper and nutmeg and set aside off the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the egg noodles in plenty of salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  4. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the diced onion, mushrooms and celery. Saute while stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the peas, salt, pepper, lemon zest and drained tuna and remove from heat.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the sauce, filling and noodles. Stir well to combine, then divide the mixture between 2 10-oz. ramekins or other small baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top, drizzle with the melted butter and bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling.

 


Comments

  1. says

    You’re so right about the sauces – the number of times I’ve had a meal in a restaurant and it’s been the sauce that’s really sold it to me. Love this!

  2. says

    Mmmm!! I think you’re right, a good sauce can make all the difference :) and I LOVE how that pot sticker sauce sounds … yum yum yum.

    The tuna casserole looks out of this world, comfort food at it’s best – if you ask me.

  3. Brynn_ND says

    You don’t know how much I love tuna noodle hotdish (as we say in North Dakota and Minnesota). Thank you so much for this recipe!!

  4. says

    So excited to see you doing Savory for Two recipes! I know your thing is desserts for two, but it’s nice to shake it up and surprise us with a nice dinner option every once in a while. I for one really & truly appreciate it!

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