February 21, 2015

WE GUSSY IT UP:

Tuna Noodle Casserole: Yay! (Bob Batz Jr., 2/19/15,  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

I did not grow up having to eat Tuna Noodle Casserole, which may be one reason I actually like it. 

One of the legion of visceral TNC haters, my younger brother, Chris, recently told me, "I figure it was one of those meals that [Mom] forced us to eat, like liver-and-onions. I don't remember that she made it or not."

Quite possibly, Chris has issues. My two sisters and I are pretty sure Mom did not make TNC, at least not often, though she did make her share of possibly love-it-or-hate-it dishes including Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast and a concoction given to her by our Scottish ranch-house neighbors called "Mince and Tatties," which is an exotic way to say hamburger gravy on mashed potatoes. 

I have no idea where I first tasted TNC, and it's not something I make or eat often, but what's not to like about the rich combination of noodles and cheesy sauce, with a crunchy topping, and "tuna fish," as I grew up calling it (never just "tuna").

Canned tuna has never bothered me, and I've only grown to appreciate its convenience and nutrition as I've gotten older (especially after I was turned on to the high-end Spanish stuff). Early in my days in Pittsburgh, when I was living up on Mount Washington, I had a tuna-fish epiphany at La Tavola Italiana restaurant, where I saw it served, with cold tomato sauce, atop hot pasta, a Sicilian summer trick. I was skeptical, but I loved it, and now, I make some variation of that -- sometimes with fresh cherry tomatoes, or no tomatoes -- at least once a week, using good-quality tuna in packed in olive oil. Tuna and noodles sans casserole. 

If the name "Tuna Noodle Casserole" is off-putting, you could call it "Tuna Stroganoff," one of the recipes I recently found in the spiral-bound "The Best from the Blade Cookbooks: 1950-1960," a compilation published by the PG's sister newspaper in Toledo, Ohio. "Serve on toast, fluffy rice or buttered noodles and sprinkle with parsley and chives," directed the recipe's contributor, a Mrs. Fred Stauber, who includes 1/3 cup of sherry for good measure.

It's a simple recipe, evoking perhaps simpler times. Especially today when many of us can eat just about anything we can imagine whenever we want, I like the dish's thrift and humility, which makes it a very appropriate no-meat one to make for Lent. 

Boil water.  Add noodles and peas.  Strain.  Add tuna and cream of mushroom soup.  Salt and pepper to taste. Stir vigorously.  Add to casserole dish.  Top with French's French Fried Onions and pop under broiler until brown.

Posted by at February 21, 2015 6:59 AM
  

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