My Mom’s cold tuna noodle casserole is creamy, packed with tuna chunks, green peas, and the brightness of dill! It’s the perfect Friday meal during Lent!
This dish… gosh people this dish was literally served every Friday during Lent in my house growing up. And it didn’t matter if was for lunch or dinner. You see Mom had 4 go-to meals on Fridays during Lent – plain cheese pizza, grilled cheese, baked tuna noodle casserole (which is
different than this one), and this dish. Some Fridays we’d have this for lunch and baked tuna casserole for dinner. So needless to say I got “tuna’d” out VERY FAST!
When I moved out on my own I quit eating this. There were 3 reasons if you must know why:
- I absolutely can’t stand mayo or touch it. It works in recipes, don’t get me wrong but the actual container of mayo makes me shudder.
- I get the heeby-jeebies when mayo is mixed with tube noodles. It’s a specific sound it makes and it makes me cringe. Trust me, I have to seriously be in love with you to make you her macaroni salad. Even now I’m making that “OMG no” face!
- I was beyond burnt out from eating it.
Resurrecting a Classic Recipe
It wasn’t until, what, 5 years ago or so when a TKW family member asked if I had any Lent recipes. Immediately I thought of her dishes. And then something happened… I actually craved this stuff.
Since the ingredients are pretty much a pantry stable (FYI… you can use ziti, penne, or good ol’ elbow macaroni in this recipe) I decided to make it.
I was getting ready to assemble it when I got to the jar of mayo. I seriously had to put the jar down and walk away for a minute. No joke, there’s just something not quite right about it. Yet I have no issues with ranch, sour cream, or even when I make homemade mayo. I’m weird, I know. But I sucked it up (not the mayo, God no) and put it in the bowl. Next came the mixing. I knew there was no way around that so I got smart. You’ll laugh (or roll your eyes and think I’m an even bigger dork) but I put my headphones on, turned up my tunes, and got to mixing. No squishy noodley sound (as I sit here and shudder as I know that sound!
Now you can eat it right away but it’s best when it chills so into the fridge it went. About an hour or so later it was time for lunch. And just like clockwork Mr. Fantabulous came into the kitchen, rubbing his tummy looking to see if I had read his mind and had something prepared.
I just smiled, got out the casserole, and plated it. Now what was funny was the look he gave me, his plate of food, and then me. He said, “Ahhhh what’s this??? Did you make macaroni salad??? For real? Wait! Did you gag???”. LOL, he knows me so well. I said what it was and why I made it.
As we sat down to eat, that first forkful of all those wonderful Friday memories came back from my childhood. It literally tasted just like Moms. As he ate he said “Oh wow honey, this is really good! How come you never made it before? Oh wait, that’s right you have this issue with mayo and noodles. Yeah, get over it as I want this again… please my darling wife.” LOL
So quickly I responded to that TKW Family member and sent her the recipe. Now, just like clockwork, I make this at least once during Lent, just because, and often during the summer as it’s a great light meal. But the funny part is I never wrote down the actual recipe… until literally about an hour ago.
Family Handwritten Recipes
Do you have many handwritten recipes from your parents or elder family members? You see my Mom and Grandma rarely wrote down recipes. I only have a few of their handwritten recipes that, until very recently I re-found while cleaning out a closet.
Everything was made by sight, feel, and smell. It’s actually really hard, even still after all of these years of blogging and being a chef to not go back to doing that. I actually catch myself often when I’m creating a new recipe that I’ll just make without measuring. Now I am fairly accurate with knowing how much a cup of something is or a tsp of another but that’s now how you blog and most certainly not how you write a cookbook (what??? TKW is writing a cookbook?? *wink*).
So in the kitchen, I have a couple of notepads that Mr. Fantabulous knows is off-limits which, if you saw that, you’d steer clear. They are splattered with food, crusted with stuff, have stains from cooking but those are the items that capture the recipes until I can get cleaned up and transpose them to a digital record. However often I will make up the recipe and, as it’s cooking, write it all down while I sit at my island sipping my drink.
Thank GOD I have a phenomenal memory or else honestly we’d all be out of luck with 90% of my creations. But one thing I do, do, though honestly, I’m not sure if many other bloggers do this is I re-test my recipes multiple times before posting it. I want to ensure I get the best recipe each and every time and that the outcome is identical – blogging is all about repeatable quality!
Second Guessing Myself
So full disclosure: I technically have had these photos done since LAST year during Lent. I had to re-edit them to match my new logo (isn’t it the best? I can’t wait for the full website reveal!). I then sat down to write the recipe last night and was like “Crap! I literally have no idea how much mayo to put in!” I originally thought “1/2 – 3/4 cup” for a pound of noodles but then I started second-guessing myself.
Thank goodness I did as I was totally off! You see we have friends and family coming up tonight to hang out. I have dinner stuff all planned – various street tacos, Mexican corn, and black beans bar. How the Fantabulous in-laws are coming up early – Oh! I just looked at the clock, they’ll be here within the hour! (I need to hurry as I need a shower!), so I needed to have something for lunch as we’re not eating until like 7. Perfect timing, eh to make this dish AND measure how much mayo.
Oh trust me, I was not happy about making it and yes I gagged but I love you guys and I do love this dish. It turns out that it’s 1 1/2 cups in the dish. Once it chills I’ll probably have to add another 1/4-1/2 cup of mayo (not looking forward to that) as noodles will suck up mayo as it chills. It’s all good though!
When Mr. Fantabulous saw me making this I got “Oh yes! I love that stuff! Can we eat it now?” LOL, I said, “yes but it’s better if it chills for an hour.” He gave me a deep sigh and then went about to clean. That’s one good thing about when we have company. He’s a total cleaning machine – thank God!
Now you could lighten this up with low-fat or fat-free mayo but I find the fat-free turns watery and it doesn’t impart that good of a flavor. You could use Greek yogurt or even sour cream if you wanted to. I, even though I gag at mayo, think it tastes best with it. For those of you that grew up observing Meatless Fridays – did you have this or a dish similar?
Actually, mine is slightly different from my Mom’s version as she put big fat onion chunks in hers and God knows I want nothing to do with that. Minced shallots, however, would be great in it. I would have put it in however at the time I didn’t have any. The stuff I made this morning, I did though.
Oh, one last comment – so it’s funny as Mom called this a casserole and then a salad. I, personally, think it’s a salad as casseroles I tend to consider baked. What would you call it? Casserole or Salad?
- 1 pound Cavatappi noodles, cooked per package directions and cooled slightly
- 3 cans, albacore tuna – drained (I use in water)
- 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cup mayo
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 2 cups green peas (frozen and thawed) or canned (and drained)
- 2 chopped green onions *optional
- In a large bowl add the cooked noodles, 1 1/4 cups mayo, salt, pepper, peas, green onions*, and dill. Mix until combined.
- Using a fork, gently flake the tuna from the can trying to leave some chunks. Gently mix.
- Cover and chill for at least one hour. *Note: noodles will suck up the mayo as it chills. If need be add up to 1/4 cup more mayo per your likeness.