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Classic Tuna Casserole

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The recipe I am sharing with you today is for an old fashioned classic tuna casserole with chips. Every once in a while I feel very nostalgic and I crave something from my childhood.  Classic Tuna Casserole is just such a dish. 
This easy tuna casserole is probably something most of us grew up on. You can try to fancy these things up as much as you want, but the heart still wants what it wants. You just cannot beat the classics.
There is nothing fancy about this.  Absolutely nothing.  And yet, it is one of the most popular comfort food dishes out there.
When I was growing up Fridays  usually meant fish.  We were not catholic, but I suppose it was somewhat of a tradition.  In many places fish is still the protein of choice to be eaten on a Friday and what tastier way to get it than with this traditional recipe!

If you are a purist and don’t like recipes which use cream of whatever soup, look away now. As for myself, I feel they have their time & place, and this classic tuna bake is just such a time & place! 
  This casserole was never fancy eating. My mother wasn’t a fancy cook.  Her food was simple and it was delicious.  End of.

My mother always topped her casseroles with something crunchy. It could have been buttered cracker crumbs, or bread crumbs or potato chips.  
In our family we loved potato chips, or potato crisps as they are called in the UK. You don’t even need and shouldn’t get fancy with those. Plain salted suits perfectly.

In fact, thinking about it, I cannot imagine it with any other kind.  Salt and Vinegar?  Nope!  BBQ?  Hell no!!  Sour Cream and Onion?  Maybe, just maybe.
Plain Salted.  Yes. Yes. Yes!  Now you can get a little bit fancy here and use crinkle wavy chips, but that’s as fancy as I would go. Do  not waste your Pringles. This calls for old school potato chips all the way!

Lets talk tuna  now. I always, always buy Albacore Tuna.  Its the best with nice white flesh and a beautiful meaty texture. Its not quite as “fish” as the other kinds if you know what I mean.
You can of course use any kind, but I only ever buy Albacore.  That is my tuna of choice.  Mosty in spring water, occasionally (like for a salad or some such) in olive oil.

Imported Italian Tuna is the best, but I wouldn’t waste that in a casserole. I would reserve that for eating on its own or in a salad. Just saying.
Once when I was a very young woman and grocery shopping for the family, I had an old woman stop me when I was getting ready to put some tuna in my cart. It was just plain old ordinary cheap tuna.  I had never bought any other kind.

Never ever eat anything but Albacore she told me. The rest is garbage. So . . .  I did pick up some Albacore instead of the cheap stuff and have never looked back.
She was right. The rest is garbage. You get what you pay for. Okay, I am a bit of a Tuna snob I suppose.  But agree with her, Albacore is the best. I also try to buy solid if I can, rather than flaked.

It does cost  more than flaked, but you are paying for less water and larger, meatier chunks in your casserole.  I like it. 
The sauce for this is very old school.  Tinned cream of chicken soup.  (Tuna  isn’t called chicken of the sea for nothing!)
Classic Tuna Casserole

Undiluted soup, some milk, cheese, seasonings, etc.  Very old school. Very delicious. Unbeatable in my opinion.  You can of course just make a simple white sauce and flavour it with the suggested seasonings.
I would do a 2 cup recipe, based on using 2 TBS butter, 2 TBS flour, 2 cups (480ml) milk, and some seasoning.  Aways use whole milk.

Just melt the butter, whisk in the flour and cook for a minute.  Slowly whisk in the milk and seasoning and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Easy peasy. 
You can use flat egg noodles in this, or elbow macaroni. Today for added interest I used bow macaroni. Farfalle. I love the way it looks in this. It makes for a very pretty presentation.

Classic Tuna Casserole

I always use peas.  This is a classic after all and mom didn’t have any fancy vegetables. Frozen peas was as fancy as she would get. We normally had tinned peas. I hated tinned peas.  I much prefer frozen and I like the tiny peas best of all. 
With a bit of cheese and some  lemon (a true luxury in mom’s day), and some dill weed in the sauce, you really can’t go wrong. Mom would have used grated Velveeta. Today I use grated Cheddar and Parmesan.  Oh are we not very lucky to have a wealth of variety in the ingredients available to us these days??? We are so very blessed.
In any case, if you are looking for real comfort on Fish Friday, you can never go wrong with this delicious Classic Tuna Casserole! A salad on the side and some bread and butter (perhaps) is all you need with this!

Classic Tuna Casserole

Classic Tuna Casserole

Yield: 4
Author: Marie Rayner
prep time: 15 Mincook time: 30 Mintotal time: 45 Min
Purists look away now. There is cream soup in this. Never killed me as a child and is a wonderful taste of nostalgia as an adult.
  • 1 (10.5 oz) (295g) tin of condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
  • 1 cup (120g) grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 TBS grated Parmesan cheese
  •   2(5-oz) tins (1 – 220g jar) albacore tuna in spring water, drained and flaked
  • 1 cup (150g) frozen peas
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried dillweed
  • the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cups (180g) of dry noodles or pasta shapes
  • 1 cup (35g) crushed plain salted potato chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a shallow casserole dish and set aside.
  2. Cook the noodles al dente according to package directions. Drain well and rinse. Drain again.
  3. Mix together the soup, milk, both cheeses, the tuna, frozen peas, seasoning salt, dillweed and lemon juice. Pour into the prepared casserole dish. Top with the crushed potato chips.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until bubbling and heated through. Serve hot.
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