I fondly recall a dish from when I was growing up called ‘tuna casserole’ and had a craving for it tonight. So I checked for a recipe in Anderson Family Recipes, a compendium of family recipes my mom made for my brother and I back in 2003. It is one of my most used cookbooks, with many indispensible recipes, but alas, it actually doesn’t contain a recipe for tuna casserole. It does contain a recipe for something called ‘tuna stroganoff,’ a dish ‘from the lean years,’ in my mother’s words, but without any sour cream on hand, I decided to just proceed with the casserole based on memory.
I sauteed some onion and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned. I then added chopped greens and black olives along with a can each of corn and tuna, including their brines. When the greens were tender, I stirred in a couple spoonfuls of Philadelphia and seasoned everything with low-sodium* Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. I mixed in cooked fusilli, topped everything with panko and a little Parmesan cheese, and baked everything in a very hot oven until the topping was lightly browned and crunchy. I dished up and garnished each serving with a chopped fresh parsley.
The casserole was creamy and comforting, but not too heavy – I didn’t use much cream cheese, and I think the original recipe calls for bechamel-esque condensed cream of mushroom soup, which I omitted. The cheesy breadcrumb topping was delightfully crisp, the corn and black olives provided bursts of salty sweetness, and the tuna provided plenty of meaty umami to make the dish nice and satisfying. It wasn’t exactly just like Mom used to make, but it was close enough, and damn delicious.
* I bought the low-sodium version on my last trip back home because of the unusual alternative seasonings it contains: potassium chloride, monopotassium glutamate, and glutamic acid. The latter two are umami-producing compounds so I wanted to see if the Seasoned Salt was noticeably more umami – and it is. Highly recommended.