GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 16, 2013

Pat's Kitchen: A noodle casserole to love

Pat's Kitchen
Patricia Altomare

---- — Casserole recipes, baked in a casserole dish such as the old favorite, glass pyrex, or the new “chef” dishes sold online, are hot and creamy — and usually have cheese.

They can be main courses or sides, and are always welcome at a potluck gathering. To me, it is a way to share a piece of yourself as they make any dinner table a bit more colorful and interesting.

Casseroles are favorites because there are so many concoctions and variations to any one recipe that you can have a little culinary fun. Many casserole recipes can be prepared the night before or the morning of, kept refrigerated, and put in the oven to bake when you get home in the evening.

Gourmet, maybe not; comfortable, delicious, and classic — absolutely!

This recipe comes from my very best friend of 39 years. She developed it herself, very often not using a recipe for a lot of her cooking. It took us a while to sit down and put it all in recipe form for this column.

April is amazing to me, as I am a cook who needs a recipe to follow. (Her scalloped potatoes are another of her “throw it together” fantastic dishes). Besides being a really good cook and baker (desserts another specialty of hers), she just celebrated 35 years as a valued nurse and employee at the Milford Regional Medical Center in Milford, MA.

I suggest that the first time you make this, use this basic recipe so you can truly appreciate the flavors (no fishy taste here). Next time feel free to put in your favorite ad-in’s like peas, onions, ham, etc.., personalizing it to your family’s tastes.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Prepare a 13-x-9-x-2-inch baking pan; butter or coat with cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

Egg noodles, extra-wide, 18 ounces (Use 1 full 12-ounce bag and half of another)

1 (12 ounce) can tuna (Bumble Bee packed in water good), drained and crumbled

1 (8 ounce) block Velveeta cheese, cubed

1 stick (one-half cup) butter

one-third cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk (may use 1%, half & half, or partial amount light cream) –This depends on how rich you would like the sauce to be.

1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Cook noodles according to package directions in salted water. Drain well in colander.

Make béchamel sauce (also known as white sauce):

In same pan you used to cook noodles, melt 1 stick of butter over medium heat; add flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Slowly add milk stirring constantly. Add pepper. Continue to stir while adding cubed cheese; sauce will thicken as it cooks.

Add crumbled tuna, stirring well.

Mix in cooked noodles. (Add salt to taste here, only if desired)

If mixture is too thick, stir in up to a cup of milk to thin.

Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Topping:

Panko bread crumbs (approx. 1 cup)

1 stick butter

Cover top of casserole with panko crumbs, drizzle with butter.

Bake for 45 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Good to hear from you:

Dear Pat

Thank you so much for the wedding article you did, I felt like I was there too. I was wishing there were pictures of the orchard, it must have been beautiful. I haven’t made the apple cake with cream cheese frosting but I am going to.

Renee – No. Andover

Hi Pat

My neighbor cut out your column with the recipes to take on a hike. My family does a lot of hiking for 2-3 days. I wanted to tell you that they really loved the ideas they got from you, especially the “pig-in-a blanket” to roast over the campfire.

Marilyn, Windham NH

Hi Pat

I cut out the wedding article with the apple cake and cream cheese frosting, but I have lost it. My niece really wants to make it. Could you e-mail me the recipe? Thanks.

J.T. – Methuen

Dear Pat

I am 85 and don’t cook on a campfire, but I made the foil-wrapped meal right in my oven and it was really good. My son is helping me to send this note to you. We both enjoy reading your articles.

Gladys from Bradford

Dear Readers

Thank you for your welcome comments and I have sent the recipe to J.T. Your suggestions, requests, feedback, criticism is invaluable to me so that I can keep things interesting and helpful to you.

Sincerely.

Pat

Patricia Altomare invites your feedback/ letters; patakitchen@yahoo.com or in care of the Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.