Casa Casserole

Now that the air is getting crisp and we’re breaking out the fuzzy sweaters, it’s time for some good old-fashioned casseroles! They are perfect for cold nights, easy to make and you can prepare them days in advance for a quick meal or for when unexpected guests show up. Turn your house into Casa de Casserole this weekend with these yummy recipes!

The Classic

Tuna is the ultimate in comfort casseroles and here’s one like Mom used to make (well… maybe better…  )

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Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces (about half a box) of pasta noodles (you can use brown rice pasta or quinoa pasta if you’re doing gluten free – you can also do any shape you like; try some fun shapes for the kiddos!)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, minced 
  • 3 Tablespoon flour (for gluten free use rice flour)
  • 1 3/4 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 1 oz sherry (optional)
  • about a box of baby bella mushrooms, sliced (or your favorite kind of mushroom)
  • 1 cup frozen peas (thawed)
  • 2 cans tuna in water, drained (albacore is a great choice)
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar, grated (cheddar is the classic choice but you can also go with a good melty cheese, like swiss or fontina these also up the gourmet factor!)  
  • oil for coating the baking dish
  • 2 Tablespoon Asiago cheese (or parmesan)
  • 2 Tablespoon whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs (you can buy them ready made – check the label if you’re going GF.) 

Instructions:

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente (this means slightly undercooked), about  5-7 minutes. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan (this guy should be kind of deep, too). Add the onions and cook on medium until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and stir well, cooking an additional 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat.
Preheat your oven to 375°. Pour about a tablespoon of oil into a 9 x 12 casserole dish – swirl it around to coat the pan to prevent the casserole from sticking.

Slowly whisk the broth into the saucepan/onion mixture until well combined, then increase the heat to medium and keep on whisking for about another 30 seconds. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Continue to boil as you add sherry, mushrooms and peas. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer on medium, mixing occasionally until it thickens. Add the tuna, then stir it all together one last time.

Remove from heat and add 1 cup of the cheese – mix well until it gets good and melty. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix. Pour it all into your casserole dish and top with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes. You can also place casserole under the broiler for the last a few minutes to get that yummy crispy top (just watch it careful, it can burn really fast!).

Cut-Down-On-the-Carbs-Casserole

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean beef (check out this post for non-meat alternatives http://deanmcdermott.com/blog/post/the-basics-of-being-vegan)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Large can crushed tomatoes (use the 18oz guy)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil (tear it into pieces instead of chopping – it keeps it fresh longer)
  • 3 zucchini, sliced into thin strips (these are your “pasta” noodles!)
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 16 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded (you can choose regular or skim for both cheeses)
  • 1/4 cup Asiago cheese
  • 1 large egg

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan, brown meat or meat alternative and season with salt. Drain in colander to remove any fat. Add olive oil to the pan and sauté the garlic and onions, which should take about 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low for at least 30-40minutes, covered. It seems like a while, but you want the sauce nice and thick – don’t add water! Just make sure you are using low heat so it doesn’t burn.

While the sauce is working, lightly salt the slices of zucchini and set aside or 10 minutes. You want to do this because zucchini holds a lot moisture and it can add unwanted water to the dish. You can actually see the water bead up on it – blot this off with a paper towel.

Grill zucchini on each side, until cooked, about 1-2 minutes per side. Place on paper towels to soak any excess moisture.

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a bowl mix up your ricotta, Asiago and egg and stir well. Now we’re ready for the actual casserole-ing! In a 9×12 casserole dish, spread some sauce on the bottom and layer the zucchini to cover (remember, these are your “noodles”). Now spoon some of the ricotta cheese mixture on top, then sprinkle mozzarella cheese and repeat the process until all your ingredients are used up. Spoon sauce on top and sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes covered at 375°, then uncovered 15 minutes. Enjoy! If  you do want to freeze this to enjoy later, wait until it is completely cool, then pop in the freezer.

What’s your favorite home-made casserole?

-Dean

Photo credit: Gourmet, Tri2Cook.
Gourmet Dad