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Tuna & Rice Casserole

Recipe: Tuna and Rice Casserole at The Weed Patch

With fall officially being here, and the kiddos back to school, it just seems time for something that is both homey as well as quick. As is usual with most of my recipes, I threw this together with what I have on hand – measurements are not that important, and there’s lots of room for substitutions.

This is basically tuna noodle casserole. Except that I had cooked rice on hand, so we used rice. You may certainly cook up some egg noodles and use that instead. If you want to use rice, but are in a time crunch, you can use the ready-made kind, like the boil-in-bag.

You may also certainly use a can of cream-of-something soup instead of making the sauce from scratch like I did here, but I make it myself for a number of reasons – 1. It tastes better homemade, 2. It is healthier (Campbell’s has MSG in it, not to mention the salt content), 3. I already have the ingredients on hand, so why buy what I don’t need, and 4. It really doesn’t take very long, so why not? You can also make this gluten-free by substituting a gluten-free flour for the regular flour.

OK, on to the recipe! Here’s what you need:

  • Cooked white rice, about 3 cups or so (we use Calrose, comes in a bag, makes a wonderful sticky-style rice; you can substitute cooked egg noodles)
  • Tuna, white albacore packed in water, 1 6oz can, drained (can sub canned chicken, or rotisserie chicken)
  • Frozen green peas, 1/3 cup or so
  • Roasted almonds, chopped up a bit, 1/3 cup or so (You can sub slivered almonds, this is just what I had. If you don’t want to use nuts, celery diced small would also add nice crunch. I just wanted the extra protein of the almonds)
  • Garlic, 3 cloves, minced
  • White or yellow onion, about ½ of a large one, diced small
  • Button mushrooms, about 4-5 large ones, diced
  • Olive oil, ¼ cup (I know, that seems like a lot, but you’re using it for the roux, not just for cooking the veggies)
  • All-purpose flour, ¼ cup
  • Lower-sodium broth, 1 cup (I used beef, as that’s what I had – chicken or veggie works too)
  • Milk, 1 cup (cream is good too!)
  • Green Onions, 2 or 3, white/light green parts only, sliced thinly
  • Fresh parmesan cheese, about ¼ cup, plus more for sprinkling on top (you can use a different kind of cheese, it’ll just change the flavor a bit; cheddar would probably be yummy)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (I hate it when people say “to taste,” because what the heck does that mean anyway? Really, I mean just mix up the sauce, taste it, and add however much salt/pepper you want. I added very little salt, but I love pepper. Do what you like!)

Directions:

  1. Dump the cooked rice, tuna (or chicken), green peas (don’t need to be thawed or anything, just dump them in), and almonds into a large mixing bowl. Stir it up, making sure to break up any large lumps of rice or meat.
  2. Heat the ¼ cup olive oil over medium high heat in a 10 inch skillet. Add the onions and mushrooms, sauté until softened (but not browned), about 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic, and stir constantly for about 30 seconds.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, and stir in the flour. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes or so to cook up the roux nicely, so it doesn’t taste like raw flour.
  4. Increase heat to medium high and add the broth and milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat a bit and let it cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir semi-constantly, so it doesn’t burn. Be sure to scrape up those browned bits off the bottom, that’s your flavor!
  5. Stir in the cheese until melted, then taste it. Add salt, if necessary, and some fresh ground pepper. Stir in the green onions.
  6. Stir the sauce into your bowl of rice mixture. Mix it up well, and then pour into a casserole dish. I used a 7 x 11 inch size, and I did not grease it. Sprinkle some extra cheese on top.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about a half hour. Check after 20 minutes – if it is browning too much on top, cover it with some foil.

Sit back and enjoy a cozy comfort food dinner! What's your favorite comfort food dinner for the fall season?

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