One of my favorite comfort foods growing up was tuna noodle casserole (or tuna-noona, as my sister is still fond of calling it). But alas, I married a man with an aversion to seafood. His aversion, to be precise, is of the hives-and-throat-closing variety. (Actually, I have no idea what happens if he eats seafood, and since the allergy was discovered when he was a little kid, he doesn’t want to find out. I can’t say I blame him, but I often wonder if he’s grown out of it. Doesn’t that often happen with allergies? Again, he doesn’t want to find out). So anyway, since I don’t get nearly the same joy from cooking if it’s just for me, I rarely prepare seafood.
But considering it’s February, comfort food is in order. I mean, ok, it was nearly 70 degrees here in North Carolina today, but almost all of my friends and loved ones are buried under the blizzard of the century. So sympathy comfort food it is! And I wondered whether tuna-noona would taste just as good with chicken.
The answer? Yes, yes it does. Bonus? This recipe is actually pretty healthy. No, it’s not low fat, so if you’re still on your new year’s resolution kick, you may want to surf on to the next blog. But it is quite nutritious because you control what’s in it–no high-sodium canned soup here! Ok, so I did use canned chicken, but you could easily sub in fresh. The whole wheat pasta will leave you nice and full without that carbo-crash later.
Mmmmm, peas. Is there anything not to love about peas? But most important of all, don’t forget…
…the cheese! Ah yes, the most important ingredient in any casserole. Yum.
Chicken noodle casserole
- 7 tbsp butter
- 8 oz whole wheat rotini
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 6-7 white button mushrooms, chopped
- 1/4 c whole wheat flour
- 2 c whole milk
- 1 c chicken, either canned, or fresh and cooked so no pink remains
- 1 c frozen peas
- 3 tbsp panko bread crumbs
- 1 and 1/2 c shredded cheddar
- 1/2 c mozzarella or Italian four-cheese blend
- sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly butter a medium casserole dish.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- Melt 1 tbsp butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. When butter is completely melted, stir in onions, celery, and garlic. Cover and cook until onions and celery begin to soften (about 5 minutes).
- Melt 4 tbsp butter in a medium saucepan. When butter is completely melted, whisk in flour until a smooth paste forms. Pour in milk and heat for about 5 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add mushrooms to onion mixture and cover.
- Pour peas into milk mixture and stir until peas are no longer frozen. Sauce will continue to thicken.
- When mushrooms are cooked, add milk mixture, pasta, and chicken to pot. Reduce heat to low and stir gently until all ingredients are thoroughly combined, being careful not to break pasta.
- Transfer casserole to prepared baking dish.
- Melt 2 tbsp butter in a small bowl and combine with panko bread crumbs. Sprinkle over casserole.
- Cover with mixture of cheddar and white cheeses.
- Bake at 375 degrees for about 30-35 minutes, until cheese begins to brown slightly. Allow casserole to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.