PENINSULA KITCHEN: Warm up with a tuna noodle casserole

I’VE RECENTLY ADDED a once-weekly teaching gig that has me surrounded by toddlers for the first time in many years.

As one expects when working with kids, I immediately caught the head-cold of the century and remembered all too well how important it is to wash your hands every two seconds.

As I acclimate back into the preschool world, I’m finding toddlerhood to be very similar to tweenhood, which we’re experiencing at our house these days.

The push and pull of finding independence and picky palates abound.

In the still very cold new year, I’m looking through my favorite belly-warming recipes to find crowd pleasing, rib-sticking meals for my own home, as well as to share with the parents of the littles I’ve been hanging out around.

This tuna noodle casserole in a skillet fits the bill for a tasty, hearty and relatively healthful meal.

You’ll see that I have you making your own roux again this month like I did in the chicken and biscuits recipe in December.

I hope you’ve found the process simple enough that you’ll never go back to using canned cream of whatever again.

Whole wheat noodles and bread crumbs in this recipe help keep the healthful grain intake up.

If you prefer, you can do frozen peas instead of broccoli.

My family is loudly in favor of skipping peas altogether unless they are just harvested from the vine. Ahem.

You can use white grape juice or apple juice in place of the white wine, but really now, if you’re stuck inside during a cold snap with hungry children (or spouses), I suggest the wine.

After all, someone will have to drink the rest of the bottle after using ½ cup for this recipe.

Tuna noodle skillet

• 8 ounces whole-wheat egg noodles

• 1 tablespoon butter

• 1 medium onion, finely chopped

• 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

• 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped

• 1-2 teaspoons salt, divided

• ½ cup dry white wine or white grape juice

• 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• 3 cups milk

• ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

• 12 ounces canned chunk light tuna drained

• 1-2 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed

• 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

• ½ cup grated cheddar cheese if desired

• ½ cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles until just tender, six to eight minutes or according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat broiler.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

Add onion, garlic, carrots and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion and garlic is softened but not browned, about five minutes.

Add wine or juice and cook until evaporated, four to five minutes.

Sprinkle flour over the vegetables; stir to coat.

Add milk and pepper and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.

Stir in tuna, broccoli, cheddar and ½ cup Parmesan until evenly incorporated.

Then, stir in the noodles (the pan will be very full). Taste and add salt as desired.

Remove from the heat.

Sprinkle the casserole with breadcrumbs and the remaining ½ cup Parmesan. Broil until bubbly and lightly browned on top, three to four minutes.

________

Carrie Sanford, who shares the Peninsula Kitchen column with Betsy Wharton, is a mother, wife, educator, artist, activist and cook.

She writes the newsletter for Salt Creek Farm in Joyce during the growing season and volunteers with nonprofits and schools in Port Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Tom Sanford, and their daughter, Abby.

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