Thursday, March 21, 2013

Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole

I make sure to eat seafood at least once a week. Sometimes it's high end sushi, most often it's salmon, but sometimes it's just canned tuna. Luckily for me, affordable canned (or rather pouched) tuna was perfectly suited for my latest craving - tuna noodle casserole. Cookbooks and websites abound with recipes for tuna casserole, but I couldn't easily find one that suited my needs when I was dining solo. Since I crave variety and can't keep up with recipes I have bookmarked, I'm always trying to find and develop and recipes to feed only one or two. Recipes often don't scale down easily for just a couple of diners, but it was easily to build this basic tuna noodle casserole recipe from the ground up. I started with a simple bechamel sauce, using it to blend together whole wheat pasta, peas, and tuna, a healthier riff on the traditional condensed soup and egg noodle version. Whole wheat bread crumbs and nutty Parmesan add a lovely layer of crunch and flavor on top and just the right amount of texture to this creamy dish. It's basic and satisfying, but the bechamel could easily be punched up with whatever herbs and spices you have on hand. Whether you're craving a homemade bowl of comfort now to combat this winter that just won't end or wait until spring peas make their first appearance, this cozy meal is sure to please.

Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole
serves 1 hungry person or 2 light appetites

2 ounces whole wheat fusili or other small pasta
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup low-fat milk
One 2.6-ounce pouch tuna
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook pasta to just shy of al dente, about 9 minutes, adding peas during last minute of cook time. Drain, reserving ~1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small oven-proof pan. When butter is melted, add flour and stir well to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is light brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add milk, stirring constantly, and bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer until mixture is thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add pasta, peas, and tuna, stir to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes (if using).

3. Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pasta Place the pan in the oven and cook until mixture is bubbly and bread crumbs are toasted, about 5 to 10 minutes. Serve promptly.

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