The Weekly Kitchen: A Comfort Food Casserole Perfect for Fall


By ANGELA McRAE, Special to The Weekly

Fall foliage, wicker baskets, ceramic pumpkins, and spice-scented candles are all making an appearance at my house this month.

I welcome the cooler temperatures and all the new season’s activities like fall festivals, craft fairs, and flea markets. But one of the things I most enjoy about fall is pulling out my favorite recipes for the hot dishes that seem so out of place in spring and summer.

As soon as the temperatures started dipping a few weeks ago, I began looking through my recipe files for casserole recipes. These tasty dishes are a staple of our fall meals, and I’m always game for a good casserole recipe.

One such recipe I discovered years ago, in a tearoom cookbook from Oklahoma, was this Tuna Noodle Casserole. At first, I wasn’t sure I should share it in this column, thinking that as a longtime tuna fan, perhaps I was in the minority. Then I did a little research, and what I learned was surprising.

Did you know that canned tuna is the second most popular seafood product in the US after shrimp? I must admit I am pleased to hear that shrimp remains number one. I have long said that if I’m ever on death row, I want shrimp and grits as my last meal.

But I’m more than happy for tuna to take second place in the national seafood-popularity contest. According to the National Fisheries Institute, “Americans eat about 1 billion pounds of canned and pouched tuna a year. Only coffee and sugar exceed canned tuna in sales per foot of shelf space in the grocery store.” I found those details fascinating, and I will certainly show a little more respect to the tuna shelves the next time I’m at the grocery store.

The canned tuna essential to this recipe is something that many of us keep on hand, and none of the other ingredients are exotic either. With sautéed veggies, creamy soup, and good old melted cheese, this is a one-dish meal that will hit the spot. If you’re feeling fancy, serve it with a nice salad as well.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

6 ounces ziti noodles (I used whole wheat noodles)
1 cup celery, sliced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 (5-ounce) cans of tuna, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pimientos, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup almond slices, toasted

Cook noodles according to package directions and drain. In small saucepan, sauté the celery, onion and green pepper in butter. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked vegetables with the noodles, tuna, mayonnaise, pimientos and salt. In a saucepan, blend soup and milk over medium heat. Add cheese and combine until melted. Add soup mixture to tuna-and-vegetable mixture and combine. Pour into a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish, top with almonds, and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

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