Tuna Noodle Casserole

As a kid I hated tuna and noodle casserole!  But this one is a much tastier version.  It would work well with leftover meat, too – I should have thought of that earlier for the leftover Thanksgiving turkey!

½ lb. curly egg noodles
½ c. dried porcini mushrooms, broken into small pieces
½ c. chicken stock, heated to boiling
¼ c. butter, divided
1 small onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3 tbsp. flour
2 c. whole milk, warmed
2 tbsp. dry sherry
½ tsp. fresh thyme
2 oz. grated mozarella cheese
10 oz. tuna packed in water, drained and broken into chunks
¾ c. frozen peas, thawed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375° F; grease a medium-sized casserole.

Cook the noodles until they are just beginning to soften to al dente.  While the noodles are cooking, soak the mushrooms in the hot stock for 10 minutes; drain, reserving the stock.  Drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water, then return them to the pot.

Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes, until the vegetables soften.  Scrape the vegetables into the pot with the noodles.

Return the saucepan to the stove, and melt the remaining butter over medium-low heat.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute or until the mixture turns slightly beige, is bubbly, and appears to have grown in volume.

Increase the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the warmed milk, reserved stock, sherry, and thyme.  Bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Stir in the mushrooms and reduce the heat to low; simmer the sauce for 2 minutes, until thickened.  Add the cheese a bit at a time, stirring until the cheese melts before adding more.

Pour the sauce over the noodles and stir well.  Fold in the tuna and peas; season with salt and pepper and transfer to the prepared casserole.  Top with a bit more grated cheese.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is lightly browned.  Serve hot with a crisp salad.


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