Saturday, March 17, 2012

TNT: A Dynamite Tuna Recipe

One of many questions that plague those of us who attempt to rotate our one-year’s food storage is, “Just what am I supposed to do with all this canned tuna?” That question is second only to “What am I supposed to do with all this hard wheat?”

I dislike canned tuna. You wouldn't know it, considering the number of recipes I've got that use canned tuna. You see, the rest of my family loves it so, I’m stuck trying to figure out how to cook with it in ways that won’t make my stomach revolt all over the kitchen table.

Fortunately, I understand culinary genius. Not mine, thank you. Everything I know, that works, came from somewhere else. I’m not talking about celebrity chefs, either. I’m talking about the true guardians of the ultimate in culinary creations: Italian grandmothers.

If anyone can take something horrible and turn it into something delicious, it’s little Italian grandmothers. Say what you want about the influence of French cuisine (and I often do), it’s the Italians who make food worth eating. Fortunately for me, I have a couple of cookbooks written by Italian grandmothers. One of them even includes a recipe for tuna noodle casserole that actually tastes great.

Based on a recipe by Juilia de la Croce, this version goes way beyond school cafeteria fare. I've simplified it a bit for everyday cooking. The addition of sour cream gives it creaminess and helps it stay moist in the oven. My wife calls it "T-N-T:" tuna, noodle and tomato. For a tuna dish, I think it's dynamite.

Equipment needed
Mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Dutch Oven or other large cooking pot with lid.
Medium saucepan
9 1/2 x 13 inch baking dish
Aluminum foil

14 oz. canned tuna, drained
Milk (as needed, optional)
2 1/2 cups Tomato Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dried Basil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
3/4 pound Egg Noodles, or dried taggliatelle
4 quarts Water
1 tablespoon Salt
2 1/2 cups Sour Cream
Cooking Spray
1 teaspoon Dried Parsley
1/3 cup Grated Romano Cheese, or other hard cheese (optional)

This first step is optional, but will reduce the "fishiness" sometimes associated with canned tuna. Put the drained tuna into a small bowl and add enough milk just to cover. Let sit for 5 minutes and drain off the milk.

Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer in small saucepan. Add the basil and tuna. Lightly simmer for 3-4 minutes to marry the flavors. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a Dutch Oven or other large cooking pot, bring water to rolling boil Add salt and pasta. Stir the pasta and cover the pan. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until halfway done, about 4 minutes. Reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and rinse in cool water to separate the noodles. Drain well and set aside.

Add reserved pasta water to sour cream and blend. Set aside.

Generously spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour 1/3 of the tuna/tomato mixture on the bottom and spread evenly. Arrange 1/2 of the cooked pasta, evenly, over the top. Smear half the thinned sour cream over the pasta. Cover with another 1/3 of the tuna/tomato sauce. Spread remaining pasta over that and cover with remaining sour cream. Finish with the remaining tomato sauce and use a spatula to smooth and blend slightly. Sprinkle parsley evenly over the top. Cover with grated cheese, if using.

Spray the reflective side of the foil with cooking spray first, to help avoid sticking, and cover the pan, reflective side down. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until bubbly, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven and allow it to settle for about 5 minutes, then serve.

Makes 8 servings.

1 comment:

Phillip Danze said...

Great! I was just wondering what to make with tinned tuna (we typically make a tuna salad as living in Australia, it a great summer dish but it's getting a bit long in the tooth)...I'm going to try your dish in my attempt to use up some of the things that seem to build up in my cupboard; thanks!
You might like to read my adventures into Mormon dishes at my blog: