How’s your Spanish? You don’t need to speak a word to enjoy this fantastic casserole.
What’s in a name? Plenty. Today’s dish is an homage to Spain. But this dish has its roots firmly planted in the US of A. It was a mainstay in many a household when I was growing up. It brings back happy memories of simpler times. That’s precisely why I craved it in these crazy days. It was prized for its simplicity and the speed with which it could appear on the dinner table. So if Spanish isn’t your strong suit, here’s the translation: Tuna Noodle Casserole. But would you have stopped to read a post about Tuna Noodle Casserole? I didn’t think so.
Chances are you have almost everything you need in your pantry.
This recipe is from Food and Wine’s Grace Parisi. Sometimes I wonder what Chewing the Far would do without Grace Parisi. Here she’s taken something so basic and put a delightful Spanish spin on its taste. The result is a dish whose red Piquillo peppers and high-end Spanish tuna deliver a dish with a burst of creamy rich flavor. It’s worth noting that this recipe was from an article entitled “A Lesson in Cupboard Cooking”. In it, Grace extolled the virtues of keeping a well-stocked pantry from which to “shop” for dinner. This makes such good sense for all those nights when you get home late, the lines in the supermarket are daunting or when the weather keeps you indoors. The only caveat to this idea is that you need to keep track of what is in the pantry. If you don’t, it’s almost guaranteed that when you finally remember that jar of hearts of palm, it will have an expiration date of 2004.
Sorry Charlie, but your Tuna is just not good enough.
Surely you remember Charlie the Tuna. Charlie was the mascot and spokes-tuna for StarKist. He was obsessed with being caught by StarKist. In one commercial after another, he would show off his ‘good taste’. He failed to realize that StarKist was looking for tuna that tastes good not tuna with good taste. Unfortunately, Charlie doesn’t make the cut here. To really make the dish special, the Tuna or “Atun” should be of the highest quality, packed in olive oil. You will find that in addition to the Spanish brands, there will be Portuguese and Italian versions. They all cost at least four times what you’d pay for StarKist. But there is a profound difference in quality and taste. It’s wonderful to serve these in individual gratin dishes but if you don’t have a supply of them, you can make this in a 9 x 9 baking dish. But do make it. And do call them Cazuelas de Atun y Farfalle. Doesn’t that have a prettier ring than “Tuna Noodle Casserole”? Here’s the recipe. And after it, some other irresistible recipes from Grace Parisi.
Cazuelas de Atun y Farfalle from Grace Parisi
An upscale take on that American Classic Tuna Casserole made so much better by using fancy Imported Tuna
- 12 ounces farfalle pasta
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk or half-and-half
- 1 1/2 cups frozen baby peas
- 3/4 cup piquillo peppers, sliced (6 ounces)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- One 6-ounce can or jar solid white tuna in oil, drained and flaked
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup panko(Japanese bread crumbs)
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 450°. Cook the farfalle pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
- Step 2 Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook over high heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Step 3 Add the milk and bring it to a boil. Cook the sauce over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Step 4 Add the farfalle pasta, frozen baby peas, sliced piquillo peppers, Parmigiano cheese, and tuna and season with salt and pepper.
- Step 5 Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish, a cazuela (casserole dish), or 4 individual gratin dishes.
- Step 6 In a small skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the panko and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute.
- Step 7 Sprinkle the panko over the casserole and bake for 10 minutes (5 minutes for individual gratins), or until bubbling. Serve right away.