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Aug 30, 2011 06:38 PM

Persons in my household sometimes have sentimental cravings for casseroles (like tuna noodle)

And because I love said persons, I would like to make them the dish that they (occasionally) crave. But, having grown up in a tofu and carrot juice hippie household, I have a visceral reaction against buying cans of "cream of" soups and then adding mayo to re-create the flavor of memory. I'd like to figure out a way to recreate these recipes in a non-gross (to me) way. Can anyone shed light on the flavor elements that I need to be aware of in making, say, tuna noodle, which calls for cream of celery and mayo. Comforting, evocative, but not canned- is it possible?

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  1. I completely agree with you about the canned cream of.....whatever soups. I make tuna noodle casserole with a bechamel sauce, and sometimes I add cheese to the sauce. I don't really think the cream of celery adds anything to the casserole, flavor wise, but if you wanted to, you could either saute some celery prior to mixing your bechamel, or you could use celery seed in the casserole. As far as the mayo, I think that just adds fat; but if if is a textural thing, I have added fat free sour cream to some casseroles, or you could also use Greek yogurt..

    1. Try America's Test Kitchen/Cooks Country. They very often will take a recipe like this and have you make a bechamel rather than Cream of Slop soup. They revised the Green Bean Casserole, which my family DID NOT like with soup, but they loved it with a 'from scratch' sauce.

      1. Here's a turkey noodle casserole with a sauce that has chicken broth, a little white wine, some whipping cream and gruyere.

        Here's a tuna noodle casserole from epicurious. This one is a little lighter and has some milk, and a little soy sauce and sherry. It uses canned tuna but you could use fresh. I thought the comments had some good variants:

        Here's a low fat bechemel if you want to use something like that for the cream sauce:

        And here's the recipe I've used for turkey tettrazzini from Will Owen of this list. You could do this with tuna instead:

        3 TB butter
        8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
        1 TB flour
        1 c. chicken stock
        salt, to taste
        1/4 c. cream
        1/4 c. dry sherry
        8 oz spaghetti pasta, broken in half and cooked
        2 c. turkey or chicken meat, cooked and diced
        1/2 c. parmesan cheese, shredded

        Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and sweat the mushrooms until soft.
        Sprinkle the flour in and cook for a few minutes to remove the raw taste.
        Add the chicken stock and cream slowly, stirring constantly until the sauce starts to thicken; add salt to taste.
        Remove from the heat, add the sherry, pasta, poultry, half the cheese and stir until mixed.
        Turn into a greased baking dish, top with the remaining cheese and bake in a 375 degree F oven for 30 minutes or until browned.

        I used baby portobellos in mine and topped it with a breadcrumb/parmesan topping like the one in this recipe:

        As it cools off, we'll be in the mood for this kind of comfort food.

        1. I'd like to add a great recipe that was in Bon Appetit for a tuna casserole -- but with gruyere and leeks... my father loved it (and he's your traditional tuna casserole kinda guy) but I also thought it was great (and I'm not a big tuna casserole person). No "cream of" soup required!

          1. I love tuna noodle and make it regularly. I use tuna packed in olive oil (well drained), mushrooms chopped an sauteed until brown. If celery was part of your flavor, slice/dice celery fine and add along with onion. Once done, add a little flour, saute and then cream and milk and whatever cheese best suit your taste and peas if that's part of the story.. Tuna goes in at the end along with whatever noodles you use and then broil with crumbs/cheese if that is your desire.