First, just a word to thank the people at the Food Network site, for choosing my Mediterranean tuna fish salad photo for their pic of the week. Speaking of tuna, it was with much trepidation that I agreed to tackle a casserole for the retro recipe challenge. My own personal challenge was to concoct a palatable recipe that was not only edible, but also void of processed ingredients. No canned soups were going anywhere near this baby! Well not only did I have to convince my husband to eat the much maligned tuna casserole, popular in the 1970's; but I would also have to eventually eat my very own words. I was sure a tuna casserole, would never see the light of day on my table. Yes, the casserole did make it to my table, and much to my surprise; the darn thing was pretty good. This is definitely not your mother's tuna casserole. By adding the jalapeño pepper for flavor and kick; the brilliant red bell pepper for sweetness and color; capers for saltiness, and of course white wine guided the recipe right into 21st century, and the heart of this non-believer.
1/2 pound radiator pasta or any other short ridged pasta
2 cans 7 oz. albacore solid white tuna (drained and broken into bite size)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots chopped
1 1/2 cup sliced white mushrooms
1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped (use 1/2 for less heat)
1 red bell pepper diced
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup white wine
Handful fresh Italian parsley chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 bay leaf pinch nutmeg
3 sprigs fresh thyme (leaves only)
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup panko crumbs
2 tablespoons soft butter
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
Pinch of salt
In a small bowl and using your hands, combine the panko breadcrumbs, the butter and parsley. Season to taste. Set aside the topping.
In a sauce pan melt 3 tablespoons of butter and whisk in the flour. Continue to stir and allow the flour to cook for 1 minute. Pour in the hot milk, one bay leaf, thyme, a pinch of nutmeg and continue to whisking. Bring to a boil and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the grated cheese and set aside.
Cook the pasta al dente in a large pot with salted boiling water. Drain and set aside in a large bowl. Reserve some of the hot water to thin out the sauce, if necessary.
In a saucepan heat the oil and butter. Add the shallots. Sauté until transparent and add the mushrooms. Continue cooking for 2 minutes and add the peppers and capers. Sauté for an addition 2 minutes and add the wine. Continue cooking for a minute or two to allow the flavors to infuse. Toss the vegetable mixture, plus the tuna pieces into the pasta and pour in the béchamel sauce. Stir to combine. Pour the pasta into a buttered 1.5 liter (6 cup) casserole dish and sprinkle the breadcrumb topping on top. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes to heat through and to brown the breadcrumbs.