I will never tire of hearing my children’s angelic voices asking me “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Just kidding, it got old as soon as they learned the phrase.
Every person has a phrase, that when spoken, triggers twitching and involuntary loss of patience. The “what’s for dinner?” phrase is the one that gets me, and I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone in my reaction. Usually I respond with a one word reply, “food”. I’m not lying now, am I?
I’m often prepared to deal with this question. I frequently make large batches of meals that get portioned into containers for the freezer or canned in jars. This means dinner is just a few minutes in the microwave away from being done. Even if it takes longer to cook from frozen, it’s still an easy night. Sometimes I’m not prepared, and sometimes I just don’t want whatever is in the freezer or the jars. But those angelic voices keep pestering me with the question “what’s for dinner”. So I turn to the pantry and the refrigerator to see what I can throw together quickly because by now my indecision has cost some time.
I realize that tuna casserole is an antiquated dish associated with pot lucks and church socials. Something that young “foodies” would turn their noses up to because it’s just sooooo old fashioned. To them I say stuff it and eat your dinner. Though this dish is not baked and there’s no condensed cream-of-something soup from the red and white can, the end flavor is reminiscent of those homey tuna casseroles of yesteryear. It also meets my weeknight recipe requirement of being easy to make and good to eat. Dinner is served.
Some quick notes before you begin:
I used canned dark meat tuna for this recipe, but feel free to substitute albacore tuna, or even canned salmon or chicken for this dish.
I kept the liquid from the tuna for the added flavor, but this also means added salt. This is why I didn’t add any other salt later in the dish. You can drain the liquid if you want to reduce your sodium intake, but be sure to compensate by adding an equal amount of water to the pan when you add the tuna. You could also save your drained liquid in a container in the freezer for adding flavor to another dish later on!
Be sure to break your tuna/salmon/chicken apart into small flakes. This allows for a smoother pasta which will be easier to serve and have a more uniform flavor in every bite.
If you have fresh fennel fronds available, you could use those in place of some, or all, of the dill. It adds a really nice anise flavor that pairs well with fish or chicken.
Creamy Tuna Pasta
- 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, divided into equal portions
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup white wine (I like a cheap Chablis for cooking)
- 2 cups diced celery (roughly 4 to 5 stalks)
- 1/4 cup sliced green onion (about 2 to 3 stalks)
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh dill, lightly packed (fresh fennel can also be used for part or all of the dill)
- 2 7-ounce cans of tuna, liquid included (salmon or chicken are suitable options, too)
- cooked pasta of choice, use the amount that gives you your preferred sauce-to-pasta ratio
In a large pan, put 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, olive oil, and white wine. Bring to a boil, then drop to medium heat. Push the liquid around to prevent scorching and continue to cook until the sauce is thickened enough that a trail will remain for a moment after you drag a spatula through it. This should only take a few minutes to get to this point.
Add all the remaining ingredients, including the remaining 1/2 cup of cream. Be sure to break up the tuna/salmon/chicken into fine pieces before adding. Bring the heat back up and stir to combine everything and to keep from scorching on the bottom. You want to cook until everything is heated through, the celery is just starting to soften, and the sauce is thickening some. Turn the heat off and leave uncovered, but the pan can stay on the burner. Allow the sauce to sit for just a few minutes to thicken more.
Combine your sauce with the hot pasta to your desired amount. Most people don’t mind if there’s more sauce than pasta, but seem to get a little miffed if it’s the other way around! You can have some bread on hand to scoop up extra sauce, just in case. 😉 Enjoy!