Tuna Casserole- or not, by any other name

Maybe its because I was thinking about my good friend Alison Hanks who lives up in Winthrop, who happens to like tuna casserole. Or maybe I had taboo foods on the brain because of Karina's blog about garden loaf. But for whatever reason, I had the strangest desire last night to make something inspired by traditional tuna casserole. Now, let me get two things straight: I have never liked tuna casserole and I don't really like pasta, at all. In my house growing up, tuna casserole and green jello were outlawed as my dad had bad childhood memories about those items. Even though my parents divorced when I was quite young, neither of these items were resurrected to the menu. As for the pasta, I ate it growing up pretty regularly but neither my sister nor I really enjoy it that much, in fact I think both my sister and I have an aversion to it because it has always made us have digestive issues (wheat-duh!).

But there I was, last night and what did I want? Tuna casserole. Ok, that is not exactly true. I was really dreaming of a tuna melt. My mom makes those all the time- simple: tuna, tomato, melted cheese. I thought about making that but it was lacking creativity and more importantly a predominance of vegetables which is how I like pretty much every meal to be. That is when tuna casserole popped into my head. And the pasta part even sounded appealing. I am talking brown rice pasta here of course. No tuna casserole is worth a massive stomach ache and digestive issues for days.

I began with some trepidation. While the recipe that was in my head was vaguely based on a traditional tuna casserole: tuna and pasta (no cream of anything soup is going anywhere near me!), I wasn't quite sure where I wanted to go from there or how I would incorporate all the elements in my head and make a delicious, healthy and still light meal. I knew I wanted there to be tuna (and I always mix Dijon with my tuna), I knew I wanted there to be a sharp tangy cheddar (inspired from the tuna melt). I also knew I really wanted to have not only a bunch of roast veg but also a big whack of cherry tomatoes (again from the tuna melt). But I figured I would just prepare the individual elements, combine, hope for the best and adjust from there. And what turned out was magical. Sometimes I surprise myself with my own innate ability to understand flavor and work things together in a way that just simply works. It was a well rounded flavor, each element complementing the next, the texture was perfect and unlike every tuna casserole known to mankind it was both light and healthy. So come of over, try tuna casserole again for the first time. I already convinced you that brussel sprouts are a fast foodie's best friend, so you can trust me. I am in no ways going to develop an obsession with tuna casserole, but this one in particular seems a particular triumph over the old standard of a heavy, unhealthy blob of cream of mushroom soup, unflavored tuna and boring pasta. Enjoy!

Tuna Casserole


2 cups broccoli & cauliflower
2 medium carrot
½ tbsp. olive oil
1 can tuna, water packed
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 scallion, diced
2 tbsp. chives, minced
1 serving brown rice pasta
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 ounces raw sharp cheddar, shredded


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut broccoli, cauliflower and carrots into bite size chunks, toss with just a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges of the vegetables are golden and crisp. Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, mix tuna, Dijon, scallions and most of the chives, retaining some for garnish. Salt and pepper to taste, a small dash of cayenne.

Boil water. Cook pasta according to package. Once pasta is cooked, drain pasta water retaining 1-2 tbsp of pasta cooking water. Add cheese (retain a few tbsp for garnish),roast vegetables, cherry tomatoes and tuna mixture into cooking pan and toss together, allowing cheese to melt and flavors to incorporate. Warm over low heat. Plate in a medium size bowl, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with remaining cheese and chives and put a dash of cayenne pepper over top.

Serves one as a main, two if complemented by a nice mixed green salad with a lemony dressing.