I hope my turkey dinner on Thursday makes me as happy as this tuna noodle casserole. I kept the Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup on the shelf but grabbed my small tin of Crisco I use exclusively for pie dough. Who knew a small amount of it would be at the base of a simple white sauce that held all these new and scrumptious ingredients together. This was no flashback to a Friday in 1965 at my school cafeteria. No kid I knew then or now would like his perfectly good casserole ruined with red and green thing-ies. Pimiento? No way. Olives? Yuck.
Oh, no, no, no. This is not the tuna noodle from my school or childhood kitchen table. My Mom served it regularly, but this is better. Dare I say luxe? This is tuna casserole for grown ups. Even better, I’ll have plenty leftover for tomorrow night when I begin to lose my mind preparing the stuffing and roasting extra turkey pieces in advance for the gravy. Thanksgiving Eve cooking is all about the dinner the next day. Cook supper on Wednesday? Ahhhh. No.
Tonight’s supper was just so much better than what I was expecting. I think I would have preferred a bit more creaminess, but the flavors and textures were perfect. I loved the salty additions of the green olives, as well as the crunch from the chips on top (my mother would have never gone for the chips. And my brother, Dad and I would have probably demolished the chips before supper. We were wolves, really.)
I found the recipe in the “Feeding the Crowd” chapter of a spiral bound, 1959 Crisco publication called “Praise the Cook.” My husband bought it at a flea market a few months ago, and I happily added it to the Old Food library. Many of its 120 pages are yellowed and stained and spotted—almost like the cook who owned it before is giving me a sign. The smudgier the book, the greater likelihood of good stuff inside.
There were two versions of the recipe–one to feed 12 and one to feed 24. But there was only my husband and I, and I wanted leftovers. Cutting the 12 servings in half made sense. If you’re squeamish about using the Crisco, 2013’s version of the product has 0 grams of trans fat and half the saturated fat of butter. And, my reduced-serving recipe required only 1 1/2 tablespoons. For six servings? A pittance.
I bought Bumble Bee solid white tuna in water (American Heart Association certified), and assembled the remaining ingredients from my pantry: green olives, chopped pimientos, and peas. I never missed the cream of mushroom soup either, although next time I’ll add more milk to make the casserole wetter. Here’s my version, which will serve 6
Tuna Noodle Casserole
4 oz. noodles ( I upped it to 6 oz.)
1 1/2 tablespoons Crisco
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 c. milk (I’ll use 2 next time)
1 1/2 cups tuna (I used two, five-oz. cans of solid white in water)
2 tablespoons chopped pimiento
2 tablespoons chopped green olives
1 cup petite peas (original recipe called for peas to be cooked and drained; I just added them frozen)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup corn flakes (I used kettle-cooked potato chips with cracked black pepper. So good)
Cook noodles in boiling salted water until tender (I undercooked them by a minute or two). Drain. Melt Crisco in saucepan, stir in flour and add milk. Cook until sauce comes to a boil and is slightly thickened. Combine with tuna, pimiento, olives, peas, salt and pepper.
Place alternate layers of cooked noodles (I started with noodles) and tuna mixture in a baking dish that has been rubbed with Crisco (Geez, I can remember my Mom doing that but I used cooking spray). Bake in moderate oven, 350 degrees, for 30-35 minutes.