Thereís something about tuna and noodles that screams fast and cheap. Itís fun to watch your dinersí faces when they taste this gussied up morph of a comfort-food classic. And donít forget the dry sherry.
Despite all the unexpected ingredients, we must not forget the basics: two cans of tuna, a can of mushroom soup, some milk, pasta (notice I say pasta) and buttered bread crumbs on top. If you have your own notions, such as frozen peas, carrots and/or sweet peppers, feel free.
Now letís take this puppy for a run.
I think this is the first food column Iíve written in 16 years that includes that great crutch of saucery sorcery, Campbellís mushroom soup. But here it is, because I havenít found anything better.
It does need help. I add sautťed celery and mushrooms, chopped roasted red peppers from a jar, mayonnaise for flavor, cheese for punch and dried tarragon to make the soup taste fresh (works every time).
Then come two tablespoons of dry sherry for depth and a tablespoon of vinegar for tartness. I always use a little vinegar in sauces containing cheese. Itís magic ó makes them taste cheesier.
Now for the noodles, I mean pasta. Your family expects egg noodles. I mean, how do you do tuna and noodles without them?
Letís try tuna and ziti, a total surprise. Ziti looks great on the plate. If youíve spent the time to work up this recipe, you might as well go for deluxe.
Just make sure to boil it very al dente (about half done). Baking it the rest of the way will allow the semi-raw pasta to soak up some of the sauce, flavoring it throughout.
The other must is a foil-lined pan under the casserole dish to catch the drips, unless you enjoy jack hammering burnt sauce off your oven floor.
This one serves four heartily. If youíre two, make it for four and freeze the rest. Itís a grand lunch from the microwave.
GUSSIED UP TUNA AND NOODLES
10 ounces spaghetti, al dente
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped celery, including some leaves
1/4 cup diced onion
1 can Campbellís mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup diced roasted bell peppers from jar
1 teaspoon dried tarragon flakes
Dash black pepper
Dash hot pepper flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon vinegar, malt is best
1/2 cup grated Italian cheese or cheese blend
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 7-ounce can sliced mushrooms and liquid
2 6-ounce cans white tuna and liquid
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Sautť onions and celery in butter. Add mushroom soup and milk. Stir until soup is smooth. Add remaining ingredients except for bread crumbs. Cook on low for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Butter a baking casserole. Pour in soup mix. Add about 5 cups of spaghetti boiled half the time on the box. Mix and top with bread crumbs.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 340 degrees or until bubbly. Allow to stand for five minutes and serve.