Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grandma Phipps' Tuna Casserole

My grandma Hilda was a phenomenal woman.  She could embroider fancy linens, raise, catch, kill, butcher, and cook a chicken (and serve a family of five with it), drive a tractor, play the piano, and do long division in her head.  She could be highly strung at times (her nickname was Chicken Little) but deep down she was an amazingly strong and resilient lady. She had a very active mind (even when she started getting forgetful she still could beat anyone at Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune)  and mowed her 5-acre lawn with an old rickety push mower by herself up into her 90s.  She was an amazing cook, a talented gardener, and an avid reader, especially of romance novels (although, she claimed, she "skipped over the sex parts"-I don't think anyone believed her).  I inherited her love of feeding people and gardening and reading and hopefully some of her creativity and resilience.  I miss her so badly sometimes that it hurts.  When this happens, I cook her old recipes: simple farm fare which would horrify most "foodies" but to me are home. As a rule I hate casseroles...but I make an exception for her recipes.

1 1/2 cups uncooked macaroni (I use brown rice pasta-she used homemade whole wheat egg noodles)
1 1/2 cups milk
2-4 T minced onion
2 T margarine or butter
3 T flour
2 cans tuna (original recipe called for 1 but I improved it)
4 oz (1/2 cup) canned pimento
4 oz (1/2 cup) canned mushrooms, drained
Velveeta cheese- YES Velveeta-that frightening, quivering brick of plastic yellow.  Suck it up.
salt and pepper, to taste (another addition of mine; she used neither)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil macaroni until tender.  While pasta is cooking, melt the margarine or butter in a skillet and brown the minced onion in it.  When the onion becomes translucent, add flour and make a "roux" (cook for 1-2 minutes, just enough to get rid of the raw flour flavor- it does not need to brown like traditional roux).  Add milk and whisk until there are no lumps and mixture has thickened.  You can add a lump of cheese to the sauce if you wish- sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.  Remove from heat and add tuna (undrained) and pimentos (undrained) and mushrooms (drained).  When macaroni is tender, drain and mix with the white sauce mixture.  Pour into a casserole dish and top with thinly sliced Velveeta cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbling and cheese begins to brown.  Note:  The cheese on top distributes evenly on its own if you cover the casserole for 20 minutes or so.  Remove the lid for the last 10 minutes of cooking to allow the cheese to brown.

This recipe just screams 1950s, doesn't it?


  1. I absolutely love this. LOVE THIS. And I am a casserole fan. Any practical farm woman who has fed large numbers of hungry people has to be. Yay for fond grandmother recipes and the comfort they bring. I also have a favorite that requires velveeta --- cauliflower/tomato casserole.

  2. I think if more casseroles were like my grandma's I'd like them more.

  3. Sounds 1950s and sounds uber-delicious! I adore tuna casserole but haven't made it in years. It's been far to long between casseroles, bookmarking this one for next weeks dinner :)