This past weekend, Curt and I abandoned the children and drove to Chicago for the first time in 8 years.  We stayed at a “nice” hotel… three out of 5 stars. I was nervous. The reviews weren’t so hot.  Turns out, three stars in Chicago is nicer than where we stayed for our honeymoon… so we were JUST FINE.  We walked approximately 4,177 miles.  We ate out for every meal.  We went to the planetarium. We went to Navy pier.  We left Navy Pier after about 45 seconds and headed to Rush Street for dinner.  We went to a midnight movie. We went to a midnight movie after buying tickets and then taking a nap at the hotel, BUT WE WENT TO A MIDNIGHT MOVIE. [Skyfall? 007, anyone?  That movie is incredible.  Javier Bardem… Lawd.  That man has some wicked in him.]  I sat in a bar waiting for a table and yelling for my school to beat Alabama… and they did.  THEY DID. We ate outside on the street patio and pretended we were young and free… and we were.   We sat in the park.  I ordered Coke with my breakfast- because I could.  I bought a shirt. Curt bought a grown-up jacket.  We held hands.  We ran into people we knew on the street and chatted like we were locals.  We passed people we knew (TWICE!) on the highway and texted them like it happens all the time.  It was an amazing weekend.

Somewhere in all that, Curt asked why we never have tuna casserole at home.  After I finished choking on randomess I said, “Well, I don’t know. I guess… I don’t know. We ate it every Friday growing up. I’m sure I can make that happen.”

And so I did.

Now, this is not my mother’s tuna casserole.  There is no cream of mushroom soup (since I married a man who falls on the floor and plays dead when he sees or smells a mushroom and I HAVE ENOUGH OF THAT DRAMA IN MY LIFE) and it’s quite a bit less-soupy? I dunno how to explain it.  It’s got tuna and noodles, though, so it’s tuna casserole.

The boy declared it to be in his Top 10 of my Awesome Dinner Achievements.  I’m still not quite sure how I feel about that, but I thought I’d pass along the recipe anyway.


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • half of a green pepper, diced small
  • half of an onion, diced small
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced (wait for it) small
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cheese
  • 12 ounces tuna
  • buttered croutons for the top

Alright, Friends. Add or take away whatever you don’t like… maybe you need peas but no onions.  Maybe you need some garlic?  That’s just fine. I’ll never know.  The trick to this whole deal was the ROUX.  Watch me be fancy here: a roux is simply equal parts fat to flour and it makes a base for a sauce.  There are 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour (which is not equal, I know) but we use half of that butter to saute the veggies in at the very beginning.

SO. Saute your veggies in all 4 tablespoons of butter. Once everything is tender and there’s still a bit of butter in the pan, sprinkle the flour and salt on top. Doing this BEFORE adding the milk will coat everything nicely without making the sauce lumpy. Once your flour is mixed in there well enough, pour in your milk and let that simmer for just a bit until it thickens… the sauce will be barely boiling.  Now you can add your cheese in and heat until melted. Now mix in your tuna.

All that’s left to do is pour this over about 8 ounces of cooked and drained pasta, top with bread crumbs or crushed croutons, and then bake for about 40 minutes at 350°. BLAMO.  A new family classic is born. Couldn’t be easier.

What was on your family’s regular menu rotation as a kid?



About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

16 responses to “classic

  • Mandi Watts

    So glad you guys had a chance to get away! Sounds like a wonderful trip. Jeff and I are headed to Aggieland next weekend, just the two of us! I. Cannot. Wait.

    My childhood meal rotation also had a tuna casserole. Plus, pot roast, meatloaf and something called “Tasty and Tender Round Steak,” which I never can make taste like my mom’s.

  • Kim Aguilar

    Lasagna, beef stew, fried chicken, tuna casserole. That’s all I remember eating as a kid. I loved the tuna casserole and my sis hated it. I make an Ecuadorian version with lime. Mmmm, delicious.

    Chicago. Sounds. Fabulous. We honeymooned in NYC, and loved every second. Never been to the Windy City though. Was it colder than cold?

  • margojames

    So glad for your Chicago weekend, Katie.

    Some day I will write a book about my mom’s cooking, and the weekly rotation. Meanwhile, here’s a partial vocab list: LaChoy, electric skillet, Vienna sausage…



  • Tricia

    I’m looking forward to trying this recipe and seeing if Bob will eat it. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to write it down!

    My mom used to make tuna/salmon cakes a lot during Lent; seems like a lot of people don’t like those, but I always thought they were delicious. I also remember lots of beef stroganoff (yum!), hamburgers, spaghetti with meat sauce and homemade garlic toast (mix the garlic salt into butter, slather on white bread and broil), minute steaks, baked chicken with Uncle Ben’s rice, crock pot roast with potatoes and carrots… and little side salads with celery and carrots and thousand island dressing. I’m sure she made lots of other things, but these simple things stand out as regulars.

  • Tricia

    And how could I forget fried chicken! I even loved fried gizzards. 🙂

    • texasnorth

      *gasp* We had salmon cakes, too!!! I’ve never met anyone else who ate those! I, personally, did not care for them… too dry? too pink? too round? I dunno.

      I LOVE reading what other people ate as kids! It’s so funny how things are the same… but different 🙂

  • Ginger

    Every Sunday afternoon post-roast and Baptist hour (nap), Mom would dig out the avocado green electric meat grinder and whip that leftover roast into sandwich makin’s for the next day or three. Home-canned green beans, mashed potatoes, and fresh milk were our dairy-life staples. (And ice cream!)

    At Gran and Grandad’s, it was fried chicken and fried bologna! (Yes, I still sing the song whenever I spell b-o-l-o-g-n-a!)

    And peaches. Lots and lots of delicious peaches. Plum jelly, garden-fresh sweet corn, watermelon…oh, the goodness runneth over!

  • Margie

    Okay, roux. Always scared me. I read too much about what can go wrong in Joy of Cooking. I might – just might – try this. Doesn’t hurt that Wayne mentioned tuna casserole recently…

  • Missindeedy

    That weekend sounds dee-lightful! And, thankfully, I heart you. Because, sadly, yes – your team did beat my alma mater. Sigh… I guess we can’t win em’ all. Love tuna casserole. One of my all-time favorites. Only, my sweetman doesn’t. So, I haven’t had it in 15 years. True story.

  • tif

    the thought of even going to a midnight movie… exhausts me! but Tuna Casserole…. now that I can do!!!!

  • Amy L

    Catchin’ up here! I had meant to send a follow-up message about the weekend. Glad to hear it was good. I figured you couldn’t go wrong though.

    Thanks for the recipe. I haven’t made this yet since being married and not sure if it would come up as a specific request – but I like that it’s not the soup-ey variety. Those types of dishes are not on high rotation in these parts.

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