Change Your Choices

Change Your Life…Tips for a healthier you

Comfort Food- Tuna Noodle Casserole

on June 29, 2012

Garrison Keillor mentioned Tuna Noodle Casserole on A Prairie Home Companion and it immediately took me back in time.  We weren’t big fish eaters in my house when I was growing up,  but we loved Tuna Noodle Casserole, or Hotdish , as it is known in Minnesota.  While this is a great comfort food, there are many ways to make this a healthy dish- much healthier than the original!  The major change in this recipe is sodium, I’m not using condensed soup and made a few other changes so this is a heart healthy dish.  Most of us don’t worry about sodium until a stroke or heart attack occurs so let’s start cutting back and making good choices now- before anything bad happens.

Modern Tuna Noodle Casserole

  • 6 oz Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Noodles
  • 1 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1 medium onion, minced fine
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 3/4 cups no -sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup 1% milk- I used unsweetened almond milk
  • 10 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 2 cans low-sodium tuna in water, drained
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • butter flavored cooking spray
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • Panko breadcrumbs

Cook noodles in salted water until al dente, or slightly undercooked by 2 minutes. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large deep skillet. Add onions and celery, cook on medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and stir well, cooking an additional 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly spray 9 x 12 casserole with butter flavored cooking spray.

Slowly whisk in the chicken broth until well combined, increasing heat to medium and whisking well for 30 seconds, then add the milk and bring to a boil. When boiling, add  mushrooms and petite peas, adjust salt and pepper to taste and simmer on medium, mixing occasionally until it thickens (about 6-7 minutes). Add drained tuna, stirring another minute

Remove from heat and add 1 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar and mix well until it melts. Add the noodles to the sauce and mix well until evenly coated. Pour into casserole and top with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Spray a little more cooking spray and top and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes. Place under the broiler a few minutes to get the crumbs crisp (careful not to burn). Sprinkle with black pepper but leave the salt shaker in the cupboard.

This makes a big pan of casserole but it warms up just fine if you have any leftovers.

What changes were made to this recipe?

First- no Cream of Anything soup.  Loads of sodium and it’s not needed

Second- Healthy Harvest Noodles instead of Creamettes.  Healthy Harvest scores a 91 which is way better than Creamettes at 23 as far as nutritional value.  Even your fussy eaters who “don’t like” brown pasta will like this.  If you haven’t tried Healthy Harvest or Barilla yet, you should.

Nutritionally, Healthy Harvest is way better than Creamettes.

A big game changer was using a no-sodium added broth.  It has 50 mg sodium per serving, the regular stuff has anywhere from 600-800mg per serving. Yikes!!

Tuna is another product that varies greatly in nutritional value.  I was surprised to see that some of the tuna in canola oil had a decent score but overall tuna in water scores higher.  No or low sodium tuna costs more but is worth it compared to the cost of a heart attack.  (spend more now to save more later!)

I also used Panko Japanese breadcrumbs for the topping.  I was thinking of using corn flake crumbs but Panko scored a bit higher at 24.  Not a super healthy ingredient, but darned tasty!  I did find the cost difference in these 2 identical products interesting.  I guess Emeril’s face on the box is worth $1.54.  NOT!  I bought Kikkoman.  Unless Emeril is coming to cook for me, I don’t need to pay him.

You might find this recipe a bit bland, but it’s supposed to be! Hotdishes can’t be too spicy, ya know.  Next time I make this I am going to add some garlic and maybe a few red pepper flakes just to jazz it up.

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