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.
This recipe is a great way to reinvent Thanksgiving leftovers, so we've doubled the recipe to use up all that extra turkey and feed a crowd, as well as using just one pot to streamline dish washing. The amount of cayenne is really up to you, depending on how spicy you want it — start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more if desired once the noodles are mixed into the sauce. If you don't need a big casserole, feel free to halve this recipe and bake it in an 8x8-inch baking dish instead.
- Christine, November 2018
Turkey Noodle Casserole
Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 10 minutes ; cooking time: 1 hour
dried egg noodles
medium yellow onion, diced
diced carrots (from 2 medium)
diced celery (from 3 stalks)
1 1/2 teaspoons
kosher salt, plus more as needed
freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
whole or 2% milk
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon
shredded sharp cheddar (1 pound), divided
cooked, shredded turkey (1 pound)
Hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot, for serving (optional)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Meanwhile, coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. Bring a large pot or Dutch oven of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and set aside in the strainer.
Melt the butter in the now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, salt, and pepper. Sauté until the onions are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cayenne and cook for 1 minute more.
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.
Add the flour and stir until it’s absorbed and the "raw" tasted is cooked out, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk and cook, stirring frequently, until it comes to a simmer and starts to thicken, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, add 3 cups of the cheese, and stir until melted.
Add the noodles, turkey, and sour cream and gently stir to combine. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne as needed. Transfer to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup cheese.
Bake until the casserole is warmed through and the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Place on a wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving. Serve with lots of hot sauce if desired.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Chicken noodle casserole: Use shredded, cooked chicken instead of turkey if desired.