Thursday, February 2, 2012

Italian Tuna Casserole

Italian Tuna Casserole - Gluten Free
This updated Italian Tuna Casserole is simply fantastic.  It is a world apart from the soggy noodle or elbow macaroni and cream of whatever soup version we all grew with.  This casserole has taken a trip to Italy and come home with a whole new attitude.  The lower fat creamy sauce is flavored with Parmgiano Reggiano and thickened with a cornstarch slurry.  Artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, and spinach come together in this dish to give it new direction.  I’m sure that the ease of preparation has added to the popularity of this dish over the years and this version is no exception.  After grabbing most of the ingredients from the pantry shelf, this one will be ready in no time.  It’s a great go to recipe when unexpected guests arrive.  Comfort food has never been so easy. 

Ingredients list
·         12 oz gluten free penne pasta, cooked 1 minute shy of the instructions          
·         (2) 5 oz cans Italian style tuna in olive oil
·         1 medium onion, finely chopped
·         2 cloves garlic, minced
·         (1) 14oz can of quartered artichoke hearts
·         3 oz bag of sundried tomatoes, cut into slivers
·         1/2 lb fresh baby spinach
·         (2) 12 oz cans fat free evaporated milk
·         2 tbsp butter
·         1/3 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
·         salt and pepper to taste
·         cornstarch slurry (2 tbsp corn starch mixed with 2tbsp water)
·         1 cup fresh gluten free breadcrumbs, I grated the end slices for darker crumbs
·         2 tbsp grated cheese
·         1 tbsp olive oil
·         sprinkle of garlic powder
·         sprinkle of thyme

Video Tutorial:

1.      Preheat the oven to 350°F or 175 °C
2.      Stir together all of the ingredients for the breadcrumb topping and set it aside.
3.      Start cooking the pasta in salted water according to the package instructions.  
4.      In a large skillet, add the onions, garlic and butter to the pan and sauté for 3 minutes or until the onions are softened and translucent.
5.      Add the artichokes and sauté for another minute then add the sundried tomatoes, evaporated milk and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring it up to a boil and stir in the cornstarch slurry.  Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes before adding the tuna to the pan.  
6.      Add the grated cheese and stir to combine then add the spinach and simmer for 1 minute.   
7.      Add the pasta and stir until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Empty contents of the skillet into greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top and bake it for 15 minutes or until the top is golden and brown.  Chopped scallions are a nice garnish since they mirror the onions used in the dish. 

Notes:  For the sundried tomatoes, be sure to use a ready-to-eat softer pliable variety. 

Skillet Tuna Casserole
If you're not a big fan of baked pasta dishes, this casserole can also be served straight from the skillet with the garlicky breadcrumbs sprinkled on top in place of grated cheese.  I'll be serving it like this in the future since my daughter has no appreciation for the crunchy top layer that is classic to casseroles.   

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