When my boyfriend and I started seeing each other a whole bunch of years ago, he lived in a suburb of Philadelphia on the “Joisey side” of the Delaware River, and I lived and worked in the central and northern part of the state, respectively. And at the time, he had his own place and I sort of didn’t. So, every Friday night I’d leave my job near Morristown, New Jersey and drive down to Oaklyn for the weekend.
We’d usually stay in and cook. Going out is fine, but not very fine if you’ve just spent a couple of hours stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike, or if you’ve been standing on an eastbound train 45 minutes after leaving your job in Philly.
So, one Wednesday evening, I asked him what he wanted for dinner on Friday. “Tuna noodle casserole!”
Huh? De fuq? I took off my glasses, cleaned them, rubbed my eyes and put them back on. Yep, those were the words. Tuna noodle casserole.
I typed back, “Really? Did your mom make that when you were growing up?”
“No, but it sounds good.”
I didn’t grow up eating this, either. Actually, I grew up in a “Cream-Of-Mushroom-Soup-Free-Zone”. Unless we were having baked ziti or lasagna, my late stepfather didn’t consider casseroles “dinner”. So, I did some Googling and came up with a recipe that had, yes, cream-of-mushroom-soup-fresh-mushroom-pea-tuna-cheese-noodles-Ritz-cracker-crumb-melted-butter-topping. I pulled it out of the oven and it looked all very homey and creamy and good and I was starting to wonder when Richie, Joanie and the Fonz were going to sit down for dinner since Mr. C. was getting hungry.
And once I started eating it, I couldn’t stop. We both loved this. This was fabulous. This was easy, too.
So, over the next year or so, I made it a few more times. I found Emeril Lagasse’s version which feeds your whole family as well as half of the neighborhood, a Cajun take on a shrimp casserole with rice, which I love.
Then it just got all…blah. Really? Tuna noodle…again, honey? Didn’t we just have that last year?
You know what happens with really good recipes? The ones you rely on week upon week and month upon month and like to cook and they’re easy to cook and the ones everyone anticipates when you say you’re going to make “that recipe” for dinner?
The more you make it, the less everyone anticipates it. And, as it turns out, the more you hate cooking it, the less you’ll enjoy eating it.
So, it’s always a good idea to give a recipe a swift kick in the arse. And now I’m wondering what else could use a good swift kick up the…nah, I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
I found this recipe for “Tetrazzini Primavera” in one of those “One Pan Recipes! The Pan That Can! Dinner Made Easy!” big, glossy magazines that “Better Homes and Gardens” publishes around this time of year. By the way, they’re a terrific buy, and at about $10 each, they’re like a small cookbook and great for home cooks.
This is a little bit more upscale and I think, tastier. It’s healthier and lighter than the original recipe, and the topping just makes it.
The original recipe called for chicken and chicken broth. I gave up meat and poultry more than a decade ago, and my boyfriend doesn’t eat much of either these days. However, we do eat fish, so I used tuna and I swapped out veggie broth for the chicken broth and it was incredibly good.
- 8 oz. of linguine, broken in half
- 1 lb. of broccoli, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 large or 3 small peppers (preferably red), stemmed, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup of all purpose white flour
- 1/4 tsp. of salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups of veggie broth
- 3/4 cup of milk (I used skim)
- 1/2 cup of sour cream (either light or regular will be fine)
- 2 cans of canned white tuna in water, drained and flaked
- 3/4 cup of shredded cheese (Cheddar is fine)
- 1 cup of soft bread crumbs (1 roll or a couple of slices of bread, diced, or mixed through your hands to make crumbs)
- 1 Tbsp. of fresh parsley, minced
- 2 tsps of fresh lemon peel, minced or grated or 1 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice is fine, too
- 1 Tbsp. of olive oil
- In a small bowl, mix all of this together and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9″ x 11″ pan and set it aside.
- Cook the linguine in salted water in a Dutch oven until it’s slightly less than al dente, about 4 minutes less than the package calls for. Add the broccoli for the last 2 minutes. Drain, but do not rinse. Put the pasta and broccoli back into the Dutch oven.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Add the diced peppers and garlic, give everything a good stir. Let it cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the flour, salt and pepper and stir it into the pan with a whisk. Lower the heat and let it all cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the broth and the milk and keep stirring until it’s thickened up a bit and once it has, take it off the heat and whisk in the sour cream.
- Pour the sauce into the Dutch oven along with the tuna and the cheese. Gently stir it, taste it and see if it needs any salt or pepper or anything. If it doesn’t, pour it into the prepared baking dish, cover it with foil, and bake it for about 25 minutes.
- Take the foil off and sprinkle with the topping. Let it bake for another 10 minutes or so, or until the top is lightly browned. And let it stand for a couple of minutes before you dish it all out.