Tastes may have changed since the days when these cookbooks were the mainstays in most kitchens, but sometimes the comfort foods of old just hit the spot. This meal is definitely one such case.
I’ve incorporated some healthier ingredients into the meal than the original recipe called for, such as whole grain pasta (see my note below) and vegetables, but I could not realistically find an alternative to the canned soup in the ingredient list.
Of course, it’s perfectly possible to make your own cream of mushroom soup from scratch, using fresh mushrooms, some oil, milk, flavorings, and flour or corn starch. But there is no guarantee at all that wouldn’t be more expensive than the canned soup, and I don’t know many modern cooks who have that kind of time to put into their meals.
Using the canned soup definitely makes life easier, and since I’m a believer in moderation and practicality, I see no problem with using it now and again.
And don’t hesitate to substitute another cream soup to replace the mushroom soup altogether. For example, cream of celery or broccoli would also work very nicely with this recipe.
Here’s a helpful hint for streamlining and speeding up the process whenever you make any kind of cream sauce:
Doing this substantially reduces the time it takes to cook and thicken the sauce and the time you have to spend stirring.
On another note, this meal is affordable only if you're paying sale prices for the main ingredients, such as the tuna, soup and pasta.
For example, I never pay more than $2 per 12-ounce can of tuna, but I really try to buy it when it's on sale for $1.50 a can. And I will not pay more than about 80¢ per can of soup. I also stock up on whole grain pasta when it's on sale because I use it so much.
I should also mention that this recipe serves a crowd or large appetites. You can halve the recipe if that will make quantities more suitable for your household.
And finally, here’s another shortcut for you. Just skip the whole oven part of the recipe and serve it from the stovetop without adding the breadcrumbs or cheese.
It may fall short in the presentation quality, but honestly, who cares about that when you're trying to to get a meal on the table at the end of a busy day.
This approach shaves at least 10 minutes off the cook time, some labor steps, and a few calories, besides.
You don't have to be Martha Stewart, so don't hesitate to give yourself a break on this.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes 8-10 generous servings
Prep Time - Approx. 30 minutes
Start to Finish Time - 45 minutes (less if you serve it from the stovetop.)
Total Recipe cost – Approx. $12
Per serving cost of recipe – Approx. $1.50
Total per person meal cost with tossed salad and bread - Approx. $2.00
1 pound rotini, ziti, bow ties, or similar pasta, preferably whole grain
18-24 ounces of chunk light tuna fish in water (3 small cans or 2 large cans)
2 ¼ cups of skim or lowfat milk
3 cans (10 ¾-ounce size) condensed mushroom soup
2 cups frozen green peas or vegetable of your choice
3-4 stalks of celery
1 medium onion
4 cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
2-3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
6 tablespoons bread crumbs (optional)
2 tablespoons margarine (optional)
¼ cup grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese (optional)
Recipe continues after photos.
- Put the water for the pasta on to boil in a large, covered, 4-6 quart saucepan or pot.
- Peel and dice the onion and set it aside. Wash and dice the 3-4 stalks of celery and set it aside with the onion.
- Peel and chop the 4 cloves of garlic and set it aside separate from the onions and celery.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook it according to the directions on the package or to taste (usually 7-12 minutes). Set a timer so that you do not overcook it. When it is done, drain it in a colander and return it to the covered pan until you need it.
- Meanwhile heat the 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes and add the celery and onion. Cook until the onions are translucent and the celery is just tender, stirring frequently (about 7-12 minutes).
- Add the garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes, stirring often.
- Meanwhile heat the 2 ¼ cups of milk in a cup in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes so that it is hot, but not boiling. It may also be heated on the stovetop over low heat in a small saucepan for about 10 minutes.
- Stir the 3 cans of condensed soup into the onion/celery mixture in the pot, blending it well. Stir in the 6 tablespoons of flour, mixing well. Gradually add the hot milk, stirring constantly. Bring to bubbling over medium heat, continuing to stir. Simmer the sauce on low for about 5-10 minutes, until it is somewhat thickened.
- Drain the tuna and add it, along with the ½ teaspoon of black pepper, and blend everything well.
- Stir the 2 cups of peas into the sauce, and heat through (about 5 minutes) (if you are using another type of frozen vegetable, cook it according to its microwave instructions before adding them), stirring frequently to prevent sticking to the bottom. Reduce the heat to low.
- Turn the pasta into the tuna sauce and stir to mix everything together well. You can serve it as is, or continue with the next step.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400° F.
- Transfer the tuna and pasta to a 9X12 casserole.
- Melt the 2 tablespoons of margarine in the microwave and stir it into the 6 tablespoons of bread crumbs until they are well blended. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the tuna casserole, followed by the optional 1/4 cup of grated cheese.
- Place the casserole in the pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- Serve the tuna casserole with a tossed salad on the side. Garlic bread is also a nice option with this meal.