This Tuna Noodle Casserole delivers a modern twist on the retro classic! A huge crowd pleaser!
Thank you Arla Lactofree for sponsoring this post and keeping Vikalinka family pain free!! 🙂
I will never forget the day they placed my first born into my arms, almost 13 years ago. His pink cheeks, little stubby arms, that barely reached the top of his head and (seriously, have you noticed how short babies’ arms are??) and his squirmy/feisty attitude immediately won us over. He was a fighter, he didn’t like to sleep and he loved his food. Sadly, the food didn’t love him back, as we soon discovered, he was terribly allergic to milk. Even touching traces of any dairy caused a rash on his skin and ingesting it produced a very painful reaction in his little belly, which we learned as soon as he transitioned onto solids. A part of me was relieved to find out I wasn’t the reason my baby was so fussy all the time. It was milk and all dairy I was eating that was causing him pain.
I still remember researching how to make a dairy free cake for his first birthday. An adorable 3D bunny cake was 100% dairy free and not all that delicious! He didn’t care, he loved it all the same. When he was officially diagnosed by an allergist at 18 months, we were also reassured that he would mostly likely grow out of his allergy by the age of 8, which he sort of did but it took years.
The reason I say he “sorta” grew out of his dairy allergy is because it didn’t completely go away. It turned into a lesser form of it-lactose intolerance. He still drinks only soy milk with his morning cereal, we restrict how much cheese and yogurt he eats, ice cream makes him sick. I know it sounds crazy but I just recently realised how much dairy hurs him.
A few weeks ago our whole family was asked to participate in a LactoFree challenge by Arla. The idea was for us to replace all our regular dairy with lactose free dairy products. We were supplied with milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, butter spread. All lactose free. First of all, forgive my ignorance but I didn’t know such variety existed mostly because 12 years ago when Mitchell was struggling it didn’t, and what did wasn’t suitable because he wasn’t allergic just to lactose, he was allergic to everything in dairy! I was very curious to find out if this experiment would make it easier for him to digest dairy once lactose was removed because I knew things weren’t great. He didn’t complain too much but a mum always knows!
We were super enthusiastic but Mitchell more than the rest! He was 100% set on doing it right and he did! Within the first week I noticed his usually red cheeks became paler. That was encouraging. The kids went though the strawberry-flavoured yogurt very quickly and immediately requested more. They loved the taste! What did Brad and I think? We thought the product tasted on par with the regular dairy products we usually buy! I noticed no difference in taste when I used cheese and milk in cooking. It was all going well until we went out for pizza on Sunday night, completely forgetting the “no cheese” thing!! Bad call ! Within a few minutes after Mitchell polished off his Margherita Pizza, he doubled over in agony. Poor kid! He was in so much pain we had to take him home!
Lesson learned. I guess going off lactose for a bit exposed just how lactose intolerant he truly was!! I am definitely clearing a portion of my fridge for his Lactofree products from now on. Mitchell is pretty excited that he doesn’t have to be policed on how much cheese he eats and he can enjoy his yogurt every morning!
To celebrate it I made a creamy-cheesy dish that my son could eat without any fear of being in pain!
The recipe I am sharing today is a creamy and cheesy retro Tuna Noodle Casserole that I updated with a much more sophisticated cream sauce by adding capers, tarragon (game changer), a splash of white wine and a dijon mustard. Let me tell you…this dish was such a hit with my kids. It became an instant family favourite. If you don’t like tarragon, use parsley but I beg you to give tarragon a chance. The idea for this tuna noodle casserole came from a tuna melt I made one day using tuna, capers, mayo, mustard and tarragon on a slice of sourdough. I was just playing around and using the ingredients I had. The taste of it blew my mind! So turning the sandwich into a hot casserole was a no brainer.
I decided to use wholewheat fusilli and also added cavolo nero kale for extra nutrition. Top finish it off, I sprinkled some cheese and herb and garlic breadcrumbs. I know it may sound like a presumptuous statement but I think I created the tastiest tuna noodle casserole ever!! The best part was that Mitchell could eat it and not have a grumbly stomach for the rest of the night.
Another win is it takes 30 minutes to prepare and it is so inexpensive!!
- 2 tbsp Arla Lactofree spreadable butter blend
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves chopped
- 1 tbsp flour
- 125 ml/1/2 cup wine
- 250 ml/1 cup Lactofree cream
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp capers
- salt and pepper
- 2 X160g cans of tuna
- 1/2 lbs wholewheat pasta
- 100 g/1 cup kale chopped
- 75 g/1/2 cup Lactofree cheddar cheese grated
- 2 tbsp herb and garlic breadcrumbs recipe link in the text
Bring water to a boil, add 1 tsp of salt and cook pasta according to package directions.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
Make the cream sauce by melting the butter in a large pan and sautéing chopped onion with fresh tarragon in it over low heat until onion is tender and tarragon is fragrant for approximately 7 minutes.
Add flour and cook while stirring for one minute, then add wine, let it bubble for a few seconds, then add cream, mustard and capers, cook for additional 3-4 minutes over medium heat until the sauce thickens slightly, add salt to taste and take it off the heat.
Drain pasta when cooked and add directly to the sauce, then add drained tuna, chopped kale, gently toss to combine, add additional salt if needed.
Sprinkle with cheese and breadcrumbs (* At this point you can freeze the casserole and cook it at a later date.) Or if cooking immediately, bake in the preheated oven uncovered for 20 minutes until the top is golden and the tuna noodle casserole is heated through.