Several weeks ago, it came to my attention that my children had never had a tuna-noodle casserole. I don’t know that I’d ever made one, and I don’t remember that my mom did, but I had certainly eaten them at friends’ houses when I was little. It seems as though they were even part of school menus in my early years of public education.
I remember that tuna noodle casseroles definitely made it on the menu of my babysitter, Jana. I don’t know how old I was when she kept me–maybe three or four years of age–but I remember that she would sometimes begin her supper preparation before my mom came to pick me up. I would watch her make a tuna noodle casserole for her family, even volunteering to help crunch up the potato chips for the topping. She would set the casserole on the table to await its turn in the oven…and I would watch for my opportunity. Potato chips were a rare treat in my house, so as soon as Jana’s back was turned, I pinched some of those salty crumbs clean off the top of that unbaked casserole! Can you imagine my nerve?! I never gave a single thought to how disappointed her daughter, Nikki, would be to not have crunchy potato chips on the top of her portion of tuna noodle casserole!
I was a sneaky kid. (And I loved junk food.)
Anywho, when my younger two children expressed an interest in trying out this Midwestern comfort food, I searched out a recipe. While I made some changes to suit our family’s preferences (and my on-hand ingredients), this recipe is based on one that I found in one of my favorite freezer cooking cookbooks, “You’ve Got it Made” by Diane Phillips. It’s a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to stock their freezer without stocking up on the usual high-sodium, preservative-laden canned soups and convenience foods.
The recipe received 5 thumbs up at my table, even from the thumb that belongs to the daughter who does not like tuna. Hope you enjoy it as well!
Oh, and Jana, if you ever read this, please accept my sincere apology.
6 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
a stalk or two of celery, chopped
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
2 c. milk
4 dashes hot sauce (you will not taste the spiciness, but it does add flavor)
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 6-oz. cans tuna, well-drained and flaked
2 c. frozen peas
1 c. crushed potato chips (or more, if you have a sneaky chip thief in your house)
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese
Melt 4 T. of the butter in large skillet over medium heat; add onion and celery, sauteeing until they begin to soften.
Sprinkle flour over veggies and stir until flour disappears. Cook veggies 2 minutes, then gradually add broth and milk, scraping up any bits that stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the hot sauce, salt & pepper.
Coat a 9″ baking pan with butter or cooking spray. Spread thin layer of sauce over bottom of dish. Combine noodles with 1 1/2 c. of sauce in large bowl, stirring until well-mixed. Stir in tuna and peas until evenly distributed.
Transfer noodle mixture to prepared pan; cover with remaining sauce. Combine crushed potato chips and Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over casserole. Drizzle remaining 2 T. melted butter over top of chips.
Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to a month.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and topping is golden brown.
NOTE: If frozen, thaw completely before baking.