To create a rich, creamy casserole base in less time than a béchamel sauce, Melissa Rubel ingeniously melts cream cheese into warm milk. The result is a thick, creamy sauce that is perfect for binding the noodles with the tuna and vegetables and is elevated a step above canned condensed soup.
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2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 celery rib, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped thyme
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 pound cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Two 7.5 ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil, drained
Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the milk and cream cheese and cook until a smooth, thick sauce forms, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the Worcestershire sauce and gently fold in the tuna and the peas. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the egg noodles until al dente. Drain the noodles and rinse under cool water. Add the noodles and 1 cup of the cheddar to the sauce and mix until the noodles are well coated. Spread the noodles in a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.
In a small bowl, toss the panko with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix in the remaining 3/4 cup of cheddar and sprinkle over the noodles. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the noodles are piping hot and the casserole is golden on top.
The assembled casserole can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before baking.
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