Whenever I travel, I fall into certain habits — rituals, actually — that I must complete: I check-in online and monitor my flight status. I put all of my travel-sized toiletries in a clear, plastic bag. I plan all of my outfits around two pairs of shoes. I grab a stack of magazines so I have plenty of reading material. And I always, always, empty my refrigerator but leave some type of dish for my return.
I love dishes that freeze well and re-heat to perfection. Tuna Noodle Casserole is one of those recipes you can make well in advance then have plenty to enjoy whenever you feel like it. Instead of baking the casserole in one large container, I opt for several smaller dishes, portioned for just one or two servings, and are freezer, oven and microwave safe.
My love for tuna noodle casserole is two fold: it’s a comfort food as well as a budget saver. I love the soft creaminess of the noodles with hearty chunks of tuna. I also love how cheap it can be to make!
I must admit, my version of this classic recipe is anything but traditional. I don’t use peas and I don’t top it with breadcrumbs. I do, however, add freshly sliced bell peppers, tangy caper buds and slices of crunchy hearts of palm. Also, instead of canned pack tuna, I prefer the type that comes in a pouch. Rather than being packed in water, I buy tuna that is sealed in olive oil, as it yields a much better flavor.
I’ve been able to keep this casserole for 30 days in my freezer without a problem. It re-heats beautifully in the oven, and in a pinch, it will do well in the microwave. Once you’ve made a casserole, it’s pretty easy to change up the ingredients based on what you have leftover in your fridge. Simply swap the tuna for chicken or ham and use other types of vegetables and you’ve got a whole new dish!
If you enjoy Meditteranean style dishes, or are just looking for a little bit of zest for dinner, give this a try. I have a small container of tuna noodle casserole waiting for me in my freezer — and I can’t wait to heat it up when I get back!
Tuna Noodle Casserole (alla Chris)
- 1 pound wide egg noodles (cooked just before al dente in salted water)
- 2 red bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups milk
- 4 pouches tuna in olive oil, drained
- 1 jar (3.5 ounces) non-pareille capers, drained
- 1 cup hearts of palms, sliced into small circles
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Use a cooking spray to lightly grease your baking dishes.
- In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat butter over medium heat. Add bell peppers and stir. Cook until just tender about 4 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.
- Turn off the heat and add tuna, hearts of palm, capers and noodles. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Divide mixture between prepared baking dishes sprinkling with Parmesan cheese. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 15 minutes.
- To freeze, allow each dish to cool completely. Seal and place in freezer.