Desperate times call for creative measures. It was coming to the end of the week when the fridge was slowly depleted of fresh produce but luckily I had a can of tuna, a lonely green bell pepper, dried pasta, and some leftover cheese and half-and-half. Casserole time!
Casseroles have always been associated, in my mind at least, with American/Western European families eating healthily and cheaply. I love the idea that they have carbs, protein, and vegetable all in one dish.
Tuna and Green Pepper Pasta Casserole
Ingredients (serves 2):
1 can tuna, drained
1 green bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups dried pasta – I used shells
1 tablespoon olive oil OR butter
cracked fresh black pepper
150 grams cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, optional
1 cup half-n-half (50% whole cream, 50% light cream)
0.5 cup milk
0.5 teaspoon salt
save about 1-2 tablespoons of the starchy water from the cooked pasta
0. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. (205 Celsius)
1. Cook pasta as per package instructions in salted water.
2. Heat medium-sized skillet on low heat with olive oil (or butter, your preference). Saute onion and bell pepper slowly.
3. When onion and bell pepper soft and fragrant, add tuna.
4. Heat tuna and vegetable mixture through.
5. Crack black pepper over mixture.
6. Check pasta. When ready, drain but retain some of the starchy hot pasta water.
7. Add half-in-half, milk, and salt to tuna mixture.
8. Add a tablespoon of the starchy pasta water to mixture.
9. In a breadloaf tin, first layer the bottom with a little bit of creamy tuna mixture, second pasta, third cheddar cheese. Repeat twice. On the last (top) layer, put any remaining cheddar cheese and Parmesan if using. At this point I try to make sure there are no gaps in the dish. I also add a little bit of water (no more than 0.5 tablespoon) around the sides to keep the pasta moist.
10. Put into oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Really loved how the saltiness from the cheese and tuna mixed in with the sweetness of onion and bell pepper. One really can’t go wrong with cheese right? I used a mixture of sharp cheddar and Parmesan. I always keep a tub of grated Parmesan in my fridge. A friend once told me that Parmesan has lots of MSG – no wonder I like it so much.