When I set out to create a lighter, healthier tuna noodle casserole recipe that was still as easy as the beloved childhood classic, my thoughts turned, naturally, to France.
Wait — France? Why? I had just returned from a trip with my husband to the south of France (ooh la la — okay, it was for his job!) and I could still taste the olives, artichokes, olive oil, and other Mediterranean ingredients that were a part of so many sunny meals. When I thought about tuna, Nicoise salad was top of mind, and so naturally a tuna noodle casserole packed with briny pops of capers, artichokes, and olives sounded amazing.
This casserole, which was one of the first recipes I developed for my first cookbook, Not Your Mother's Casseroles, delivered in spades (if I do say so myself!). It takes the sometimes-bland flavors of a classic casserole and punches them up with elements of a Nicoise salad like thinly sliced potatoes and salty, tangy trimmings that add little if no extra work to the dish. After all, for capers and olives, all you need to do is open a jar.
This recipe also lightens up the classic recipe by dispensing with the traditional can of soup and substituting a quick white sauce made with flour and milk. This is an extra step, but it lets you control the fat and salt in the dish — not to mention that it tastes much better. A handful of Parmesan cheese adds a little extra richness.
It's a recipe inspired by France, but easy and homey enough for any night of the week. I hope you love it as much as I do.
Not Your Mother's Casseroles
If you like this recipe, check out my casserole book, which is getting released with about 25 new recipes and pages of new photos this fall: Not Your Mother's Casseroles Revised and Expanded Edition by Faith Durand, copyright (c) 2017. Published by Harvard Common Press.
Mediterranean Tuna Noodle Casserole:
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Mediterranean Tuna Noodle Casserole
Serves 4 to 6
wide, dried egg noodles
small red potatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
(1/2 stick) unsalted butter
kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
(6-ounce) cans olive-oil packed tuna, drained
box (9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and halved
capers, rinsed and drained
sliced black olives
medium scallions, thinly sliced
finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Lightly coat a 2-quart or 9x13-inch baking dish with oil; set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes less than recommended on the package directions. Drain the noodles, then transfer them to a large bowl. Toss them immediately with a drizzle of olive oil so they don't clump together; set aside.
Fill the pot with water again and bring to a boil. Add the potato slices and cook for 4 minutes. Drain well, then return them to the pot.
While the noodles and potatoes are cooking, heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it melts and foams up, add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the salt and pepper to taste.
Add the egg noodles to the pot of potatoes, then pour the sauce over them. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, tuna, artichoke hearts, capers, olives, scallions, parsley, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Taste and season with more salt as needed.
Transfer to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.
Make ahead: The assembled casserole can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking, but will probably need a few additional minutes cooking time.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Reprinted with permission from Not Your Mother's Casseroles Revised and Expanded Edition by Faith Durand, copyright (c) 2017. Published by Harvard Common Press.