And I’m cooking again! The deadline has been met and I sort of celebrated by coming home and cooking dinner. Now, rather bizarrely, I’d been wanting to make a tuna noodle casserole for a while – this is probably due to a number of factors. Firstly, it’s a casserole, people! A casserole! This is one of the most exotic of foodstuffs to me, having grown up on no casseroles whatsoever. I’ve had gratins and lasagnes but they’re surely not casseroles, those meals in a baking dish. (Europeans, do not confuse this casserole with those big heavy Le Creuset style pots you have. The casserole I’m talking about is the North American kind). In the American Midwest, a casserole is known as a hotdish. I have no idea why.

Secondly, tuna noodle casserole seems to be one of those classics of the casserole world. I believe it’s traditionally made with a can of cream of mushroom soup but I thought that a homemade bechamel would suit and taste better. I followed a couple ideas from the recipe from Cooking for Engineers and I really wanted to add peas but I had run out of frozen ones in my freezer. I also wanted to use proper short dried egg noodles but my local shop had run out and so I used tagliatelle instead. This is what resulted – it was delicious but quite ugly!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Noodle Casserole
adapted from Cooking for Engineers
serves 2 with leftovers.

200g tagliatelle (substitute short, flat egg noodles)
a bunch of button mushrooms, more if you really like them!, sliced
2 spring onions, sliced thinly
about 1 tbsp oil or butter for frying
1 tin tuna, packed in oil, drained
3 tbsps butter
2.5 tbsps flour
about 500 mL whole milk
1 tsp chicken stock granules
salt and freshly ground black pepper
cracker crumbs or crushed potato crisps (I’m going to use this next time!)

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, add about 1 tbsp oil or butter and fry the sliced mushrooms and scallions until softened and the mushrooms have released their water. Boil and pot of water and boil the tagliatelle until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water and then cut them into shorter lengths. Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius.

Now to make your bechamel. Heat a pan over medium-low heat and melt the 3 tbsps butter. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking often, for 2-3 minutes. Add the milk slowly, along with the chicken stock granules, whisking in all the flour and butter mixture. Whisk a lot and there should be no lumps! After all the milk has been incorporated, continue cooking for about 10 minutes, whisking often. You’ll find that the raw flour taste will go and the mixture will be smooth and thick. If you want it a little thinner, add more milk.

Mix the tuna and the mushroom mix together with the bechamel. Add salt and pepper to taste and then mix the noodles in too. Spread the mixture out into a suitable baking dish. Sprinkle the crumbs on top and then stick the whole thing into the oven. Serve when it’s bubbling through.