The beauty of a tuna casserole is its infinite adaptability. You can dump two cans into cooked pasta and call it good, or you can zhoozh it up with home-canned albacore and fresh lemon thyme from the garden (like I do). With a combination of canned tuna and homemade white sauce, this recipe hits the sweet spot between effort and ease. I firmly believe that, in the absence of rationing and all of its caveats, MFK Fisher would have enjoyed this recipe. I bet it could have even turned Helen Evans Brown around.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter your favorite casserole dish. (I use the Corningware one I inherited from my grandmother, who bought it with S&H Green Stamps in the 1970s.)
- In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots, and cook until the shallots are translucent (about five minutes), stirring often. Turn the heat down to medium-low, then sprinkle the flour over the sautéed mushrooms and shallots, stirring to coat. Keep stirring and cooking for a few minutes, until the roux becomes fragrant.
- Turn off the burner, and slowly pour in the milk, stirring with enough vigor to smooth out any lumps. Turn the burner back on, to medium-low, and simmer for about five minutes. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- While you’re making the sauce, boil the noodles in salted water according to the package directions, then drain. Crumble the tuna into the pot with the noodles, add the peas, then add in the finished sauce, stirring to thoroughly combine. Scrape everything into the buttered casserole and top with the cheese, then the bread crumbs/panko/French fried onions.
- Bake until the cheese is melted, the topping browned, and the sauce bubbly (about 15 minutes).
Heather Arndt Anderson is a Portland, Oregon-based food writer, culinary historian, and botanist. She is the author of three single-subject books: Chillies: A Global History (Reaktion, 2016), Portland: A Food Biography (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), and Breakfast: A History (AltaMira, 2013). Her first piece of single-subject food writing was published when she was seven years old; it was a poem about an orange.