When you cook a 22-pound turkey for Thanksgiving, leftovers are inevitable. The first round is devoured in a midnight dash to the fridge (straight from the Tupperware, no silverware required.) And then there's Friday's long-awaited turkey-cranberry panino, with a pile of green bean casserole on the side. Heaven. But my favorite meal of all—besides the main event, of course—is turkey noodle casserole.
Countless versions of turkey noodle casserole abound in Southern community cookbooks and recipe boxes, but I think this one is the very best. There is not much to it: just a creamy cheddar béchamel tossed with noodles, turkey, and veggies, all baked to perfection. It's comfort food at it's finest.
If you are looking for something delicious for your turkey leftovers, yet simple and easy to throw together, this is your recipe. It's nothing fancy, but I guarantee you there won't be a single bite left. But then there's always next year.
Turkey Noodle Casserole
Serves 6 - 8
8 ounces dried egg noodles
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped sweet onion (about 1 small onion)
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar, divided
2 cups cooked, shredded turkey
3/4 cup sour cream
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until tender and softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
Whisk in the flour and stir until it is absorbed (and the "raw" tasted cooked out), about 1 - 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups shredded cheese and stir until melted. Add the cayenne, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Add the cheese sauce, shredded turkey, and sour cream to the noodles. Season generously with cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste.
Grease an 8 x 11-inch baking dish (or similar size) casserole dish. Pour noodle mixture into baking dish and top with remaining 1 cup of cheese. Bake until casserole is warm and cheese is bubbling, about 25 minutes.
Serve with lots of hot sauce, preferably Frank's.
Related: Recipe: Chicken and Swiss Chard Pasta Bake
(Images: Nealey Dozier)