This version of tuna and macaroni is baked in a casserole dish. The pasta, tuna and the vegetables are covered in a flavorful homemade sauce then topped with grated cheese. It smells wonderful while baking and tastes even better. Different vegetables and seasonings will allow you to add your own favorite flavors to the recipe. While the basis of the recipe is a cheap box of mac and cheese the flavor of the homemade sauce hides that fact.
Food historians believe we have the ancient Greeks and Romans to thank for thinking of putting pasta and cheese together. The combination was popular during the medieval period in Europe. Early American colonial cookbooks contained recipes for macaroni and cheese made in the English style. In the earliest recipes the pasta was cooked, drained, buttered and salted. Then cheese was put in a dish or on a platter and the hot pasta was poured over it. More cheese was often put on top. Some recipes baked it in a pan.
The Kraft company introduced Kraft Dinner or as it was later known Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner as a boxed product in 1937. It was an inexpensive item that made a one pot meal that would feed a family of four. During the tough times of the Great Depression it became a very popular product as it is to this day. All for the same reasons, low price and it is quick to make.
The casserole can be served as a one pot meal or with a salad, bread and dessert. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven or the microwave the next day.
The casserole will serve 4 to 6.
Kicked Up Tuna Mac
- 1 8 oz. box of macaroni and cheese
- 1 cup of peas or vegetable(s) of your choice, frozen, fresh or canned
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 2 teaspoons of chicken bouillon, heaping
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of Paprika, heaping
- 1 teaspoon of dry mustard, heaping
- 3 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons of mayo, heaping
- 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour or enough flour to absorb the melted butter
- 2 cups of water
- 1 can of tuna fish packed in water, drained
- Parmesan cheese, grated
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and have a casserole dish ready.
Heat salted water to boiling in a 2 qt. sauce pan. Once it boils add the macaroni and the frozen vegetable (I used peas). Cook until the pasta is almost done and the vegetable has cooked. Drain and pour the pasta and vegetable into the casserole. Stir a tablespoon of butter into the pasta so it will not stick together.
In the same pan melt 3 heaping tablespoons of butter. When it has melted remove from the heat and using a whisk stir in the chicken bouillon, salt, paprika, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, mayo and the ‘cheese’ sauce powder. Add a dash of pepper if you want. Sprinkle the flour into the butter and seasoning mixture. Use the whisk to blend it in. You will end up with a brown mass wedged around your whisk. Knock the stuff off of the whisk. Add a bit of the liquid at a time while whisking until all of the liquid has been added and the mixture is free from lumps. Be aggressive during this process. Cook the sauce over medium heat while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it has thickened. It is done when it begins to bubble.
Open the can of tuna, drain, give the cat his share and break up the rest with a fork. Stir the tuna into the sauce. Pour in the cooked macaroni and vegetable. Mix well but try not to break up the tuna too much. Pour the mixture into the casserole. Smooth and sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese over the top.
Bake the casserole in a 350 degree F. oven for 45 minutes. Allow to cool about ten minutes before serving.
Any type of pasta could be used and the powdered ‘cheese’ sauce omitted. It would take 8 oz. of pasta.
I used a glass casserole and did not butter or spray it.
Vegetables can be any you like. Peas, green beans, carrots, celery, onion, broccoli, Brussels sprouts or a mixture of several vegetables. You can use frozen, fresh or canned and drained. The amount should be 1 or 1 and ½ cups.
Seasonings can vary. Add hot sauce, hot peppers, crushed red pepper, chili powder or other hot spice.
If you use hot seasonings you might want to add onions and green or red peppers.
The recipe can be the base of other recipes. Other types of seafood or fish can be used instead of tuna such as shrimp and salmon. Cooked chicken, pork or beef could replace the tuna. The amount should be around 1 cup but could be adjusted depending on what you have. More would not hurt.
The topping can be crushed crackers, crushed potato chips, crushed corn flakes, buttered bread or biscuit crumbs.
Part of the water in the sauce can be milk, beer or wine.
Cheese can be melted into the sauce.