Eating History 1: Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole

In 2014 and 2015, I inherited recipes written by the women in my family, including my mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Based on the dates they were alive, these recipes likely span from 1900-1985.  I’m making them by following the original instructions as closely as I can. This is my history.

I must admit, for my first foray I’m taking the safe route. I already have a tuna casserole recipe I enjoy, and it isn’t as if putting tuna, cheese, and noodles together and then baking it would be new to our palates. It also has the advantage of being made out of ingredients that still exist, something that can’t be said for all of the recipes I have.

TunaCasserole09

I admit I was a little concerned about “shred process Am cheese.” Processed cheese is not (other than as a Velveeta brick) something I remember seeing. However, Kraft has apparently introduced shredded Velveeta just in time for me to be able to make tuna casserole.

TunaCasserole01

One thing I noticed in particular is that there is no fresh dairy used in this recipe, or indeed, many others I have. I call this “war cooking”, though it might just as easily have been depression cooking. This looks like my grandmother’s handwriting. She was born in 1918, so this may very well have been during WWII when my grandfather was overseas.

The recipe itself is not particularly difficult, though to my modern sensibilities it is oddly involved for something as pedestrian as tuna casserole. It starts with sauteing onions and then adding flour to make a roux. The evaporated milk is added slowly along with water and then the cheese is stirred in, to make a much creamier and fancier sauce than my usual method.

After stirring everything up, I was half-convinced I had botched the roux, based on how runny it was. Once it baked, however, the sauce thickened into a nice creamy base. It held up well in leftovers too, without soaking into the noodles too much.

If I were to make this again, I’d make the following changes:

  • substitute fresh milk for the evaporated milk+water
  • substitute cubed Velveeta for the cheese mixed into the sauce, and shredded cheddar for the cheese garnish

Overall, it was a great recipe to start with: a familiar taste with familiar ingredients. Check out the gallery for some process photos, including the photo no one ever shows: the view of the kitchen after the cooking is done! (Hover over a photo to see the caption.)

Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole*

(Makes 6 servings)

  • 1/3 c chopped onion
  • 2 T margarine
  • 2T flour
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1 1/4 c shredded Processed American cheese
  • 1 1/2 t worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 t seasoned salt
  • 10 oz canned flaked tuna, drained
  • 1 c cooked peas, drained
  • 3 c cooked noodles, drained

Saute onions in margarine in med saucepan. Stir in flour. Gradually add evaporated milk and water. Cook over med heat til boils, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add 1c cheese**, worcestershire sauce, and seasoned salt. Stir until cheese is melted. Combine cheese sauce, tuna, peas, and noodles in casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 min.

*I’ve cleaned up the recipe slightly by standardizing the abbreviations and adding information where it may be otherwise unclear. Everything else is as it was written.

**I have no idea why “cheese” is underlined in the recipe, but there you are.

 

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