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Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Noodle Casserole
Tom Valenti

6 servings

You will love this grown-up, sophisticated version of the American classic. For this recipe, Tom prefers pennette pasta, a smaller version of the penne, because it is about the same size as the tuna pieces and the center fills up with the creamy sauce, yielding a perfect balance of flavors and texture. Don't skimp on the quality of the tuna; it does make a big difference.

6 T butter
1/2 c plus 2 T all-purpose flour
3 c whole milk
1 large egg yolk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb pennette pasta, cooked al dente and drained
(1) 12 oz can imported Italian or Spanish tuna packed in oil, drained
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 T minced oregano leaves or 1 T dried
2 T minced flat-leaf parsley
1/2 c dried bread crumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

2. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Whisking constantly, add the milk a little at a time, making sure it is smooth and not lumpy before each addition. Turn off the heat.

3. Beat the egg yolk in a small mixing bowl; add 1-2 T flour and milk mixture and whisk until well combined. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the pot. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Fold in the pasta, tuna, garlic, oregano and parsley and stir to blend the mixture and coat the pasta. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the gratin dish, shaking the pan to evenly distribute. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crusty on top.

Recipe adapted from Soups, Stews and One-Pot Meals. Tom Valenti and Andrew Friedman (Scribner, 2003)