Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Twist On The Traditional Tuna Noodle Casserole

Is there anything as easy as a tuna noodle casserole? Take a can of tuna, cooked noodles, a can of mushroom soup, maybe a little cheddar, bake until its browned and bubbly and there you have your typical Friday Lenten dinner. Wham, bam, done. Unless you're gluten-free. Then it's a wee bit more complicated. (But not ALL that much!)

When it comes to a gluten-free tuna casserole, some of the basics are the same...or nearly so. Tuna? No issue there. Noodles? There are REALLY good GF noodles, so that's not an issue either. Good ol' Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup? Nope. That's where one of the things we (old fashioned) cooks take for granted goes awry.

Condensed cream of mushroom soup, this basic ingredient of the All American casserole is laden with gluten! What's more, this pantry shelf wonder is almost irreplaceable for that good, rich, traditional favorite national casserole dish. (Note the word almost in the previous sentence?) You may think what will I do?! How will I live the rest of my life without this old timey staple for nearly every family favorite casserole? The answer? Not a big deal, really.

These days I make my dish with lots of big slices of browned-in-butter fresh mushrooms instead of those teeny, tiny mushroom-ish specks in the tan-gray glop from the can. I add the color and flavor of sauteed red (and maybe yellow and orange, too, if I have them on hand) peppers and beautiful green spinach, a little onion and not only is the tuna mixture looking colorfully gorgeous, it's been pumped up with vitamins and fiber, too! Creaminess? Just a little Greek yogurt or sour cream (if you're feeling indulgent) takes care of that just fine along with lots of good sharp cheddar chunks that melt into ooey, gooey treasures studded throughout the noodles. Sounds even better than the original, doesn't it? It is!

Even if you don't have to watch out for that old demon gluten, you may just want to give this version a spin with regular "gluten-FULL" noodles. You know, the same ones you used in your old version? Maybe this one does require a few more steps than just opening a couple of cans, but I think YOU might just think those extra couple of minutes are worth it. I do!

Tuna Casserole Twist

Serves 6-8

  • 12 oz. package rotini pasta (twist shapes to go with the 'twist' theme!) - I used Barilla gluten-free rotini or you can use whatever shape you like best. Be sure not to overcook. Cook them just short of al dente because the pasta continues to cook in the oven and absorbs the flavors of the casserole.
  • 2 T butter, plus another 2 T to butter the casserole dish - soft butter to make the buttering easier
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 C red pepper, diced
  • 1/3 C yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 C fresh baby spinach, left whole (or if you have bigger spinach, cut into ribbons or chop roughly)
  • 1/4 C onion, finely diced
  • 2 cans light tuns in water, do NOT drain - broken into smaller pieces (I like light tuna for a casserole, but white for tuna salad)
  • 1 C Greek yogurt (you know I use Fage 0%) or sour cream, if you wish
  • Jane's Crazy Salt (my fave seasoned salt) - I used about a tablespoon as this is a big casserole and LOTS of freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 6-7 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, diced small

Set oven to 350 degrees.

While the noodles are cooking, melt 2 T butter in a skillet. Saute the mushrooms, peppers and onion until just wilted. Set aside.

Drain the cooked noodles in a colander. When all the water is drained off, put the noodles carefully back into the pot. Add the sauteed veggies, spinach, tuna, yogurt (or sour cream), Jane's Crazy Salt and pepper and stir gently. Add the diced cheddar, stir gently again. Butter a large, deep casserole dish with the remaining 2 T of soft butter.

Pour the mixture into the casserole dish. Bake approximately 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

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