Even though I can’t have milk, I still crave creamy, carby comfort foods. While mac & cheese is still a pipe dream, one dish which I’ve become pretty good at is an updated oven-baked tuna noodle casserole.
My tuna noodle casserole is slightly classier than the cream-of-mushroom soup recipe I’m sure we’re all familiar with. Even if I didn’t have allergies, I don’t think I could eat anything that pale and bland and lacking in garlic. I’ve adapted mine from a Chow recipe, to suit both my allergies and the commonly available ingredients here in the UK. I don’t think a dish I’d describe as comfort food should require any extra effort for foraging or assembling the ingredients. It should be a dish that you can make with ingredients in your fridge and cupboard.
That said, I do plan in advance for this casserole and make sure I have fresh parsley on hand. There’s nothing more vile than slimy, half-dead herbs. The real time-consuming part of the dish, other than clean-up, is making the bechamel. It really is worthwhile though, as it provides the creamy, mild base for the casserole. Alternatively, I’m sure you could cook this as an absorption pasta using vegetable broth, but I prefer chucking it all into the oven and letting it get brown and crusty on top.
Finally, if you have leafy celery bits, definitely don’t throw them away. I save them and mix them in with the parsley at the end. It adds a bit more green and brightens up what is otherwise a pretty beige dish.
Dairy-free Tuna Noodle Casserole
For 4 – 6 (or two, with lots leftovers to fuel the Friday afternoon puppy hunt!)
NYT olive oil bechamel made with rice or almond milk.
500g bow-tie pasta, slightly undercooked (keep it slightly wet in case you need to loosen your bechamel)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili (de-seeding optional, so use to taste)
1 tsp English mustard (or more, to taste)
2-3 celery ribs, sliced thin (I usually use all of my leftover celery)
250 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced thin
1 can tuna, drained
Salt-free seasoning (A few good shakes. Don’t skimp!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley to serve
Preheat oven to 180c/350f. Using a pan large enough to hold all of your ingredients, saute onions in a little bit of olive oil until they start to turn translucent. Add garlic and chili, cook for another two minutes. Mix in celery and mushrooms, with a bit more oil if necessary. Season with salt-free seasoning, and cook for a little bit longer. Flake in tuna, and coat with bechamel. Add mustard to taste. Mix in pasta. You can either add some of the pasta water or vegetable broth to thin if necessary, but the sauce should be quite thick and coat everything.
Pour into casserole dish, cover, pop in the oven and cook for 20 – 30 mins, or about the time it takes to make a salad, so it’s crispy at the edges and browned on top. I usually take the lid off for the last 10 minutes as I like the top to be really dried out and chewy.
Serve with chopped parsley. I like to mix it all the way through, as it brightens the dish quite a bit, and seriously… we’re not going for presentation here.
This recipe obviously differs from a traditional tuna noodle with the omission of frozen peas. Peas are a legume and have been a no-no for me for pretty much my entire life. I try to make up for it by adding extra celery and parsley. Or, you could be like us and do a salad to go with, as this isn’t really something to make if you’re attempting to keep a majority of green things in your dinner.