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Revamped Tuna Casserole

Revamped Tuna Casserole
Howard Yoon for NPR /

If you can afford it, splurge on the more expensive canned tuna packed in olive oil. It makes all the difference in this recipe. Serve with a dash of Tabasco.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium white onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 clove garlic, finely minced

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk, preferably whole milk

4 to 8 ounces frozen peas (depending on how much you like peas)

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

2 6-ounce cans tuna (preferably packed in olive oil)

8-ounce package wide egg noodles, cooked al dente

Panko Or Bread Crumb Topping

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup panko or bread crumbs

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

1/2 cup cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8-by-8-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Make topping by melting butter in a saucepan or microwave. Mix butter into panko or bread crumbs, along with parsley and cheese.

In a large deep skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. Saute the onion and celery until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 1 to 2 more minutes.

Add butter and flour, and stir until combined. Slowly add milk, whisking to eliminate any lumps. Add peas and salt and pepper, and continue stirring over medium heat until milk bubbles and thickens. Turn off heat.

Add cheese and mustard, and continue stirring.

Using a fork, flake tuna from both cans into the mixture until everything, including the oil from the tuna, is incorporated. Add noodles and mix gently with tongs.

Pour the entire contents of the skillet into the casserole dish.

Cover evenly with topping and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until topping is light brown and the mixture underneath is bubbling.

Variation: Shrimp With Smoked Paprika

If you don't like canned tuna, try this twist.

Follow the directions for the tuna casserole, except:

Substitute one red bell pepper, diced, for celery.

Substitute 3/4 to 1 pound peeled, deveined cooked medium shrimp for the canned tuna.

For the Dijon mustard, substitute 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton), found in gourmet stores and in the spice section of some larger grocery stores.

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