What’s Tuna Casserole?

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Tuna casserole is a popular American dish made with tuna, vegetables, pasta or rice, and a creamy sauce. It became popular in the 1950s due to its convenience and affordability. Casseroles can be frozen or refrigerated for later use and are often shared as a friendly gesture. A basic recipe includes four cups of pasta, two cups of tuna, two cups of sauce, and two cups of vegetables. It is typically topped with toasted breadcrumbs and cooked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.

Tuna casserole is a casserole in which tuna is the main ingredient. A casserole, of course, is a dish consisting of baked starch, vegetables and/or meat in a typically creamy sauce. Some people regard casserole and tuna casserole in particular as a quintessential 1950s American dish, but in reality, casserole has a long and illustrious history, and there are many ways to prepare tuna casserole.

One reason casserole became so popular in the 1950s is that it was easy to make from packaged foods. Many casserole recipes called for noodles, a can of tuna, a can of vegetables, and a can of creamy soup, such as cream of mushroom or cream of broccoli. These ingredients were inexpensive, easy to handle, and easy to find in the store, and the resulting casserole was often popular with the family, including picky eaters.

The casserole continues to be popular with cooks because it can be made in large batches and frozen for future use or refrigerated and cooked later, making it convenient for people who want something easy to cook during the week. Casseroles are also commonly offered at potlucks and in small communities, people may take the casseroles to the homes of sick people, recovering from childbirth or mourning a family member as a friendly gesture. The tuna casserole remains a perennial favorite.

A basic tuna casserole is made with spaghetti or rice, tuna, vegetables, and a creamy sauce. Rotine or fusilli pasta is a common choice of pasta shape, although ribbon egg noodles, penne, and a wide variety of other shapes could certainly be used. Tuna is classic canned, and vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, peas, or onions are common. Cooks can use fresh, frozen or canned vegetables, depending on personal taste. The cream sauce can be a simple white sauce made from roux, milk, and cheese, although red sauces or, if so, canned soups can also be used. Traditionally, tuna casserole is topped with a crunchy filling made by toasting bread crumbs in butter.

As a general rule, for every four cups (500 milliliters) of pasta, two cups (250 milliliters) of tuna, two cups (250 milliliters) of sauce, and two cups (250 milliliters) of vegetables are used. A heavy saucepan should be used, which allows the casserole to heat slowly and evenly in the oven, and should be left uncovered during the cooking process so that the toppings become crispy and crunchy. Cooking temperatures for tuna casserole vary, depending on the size of the casserole and the weight of the pan, but generally around 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius) for 20 minutes is a good place to start.

Cooks who want to freeze a tuna casserole for future consumption can mix all the ingredients in a heavy buttered casserole, add the dressing, and cover the dish tightly. The tuna casserole will require a longer cooking time to defrost and cook, and will generally last about six months in the freezer.

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