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Updated Southern Cooking:
Tuna Casserole, Creole Style

John Tullock

If you remember Mom's tuna casserole with the same fondness that I do, then youıll love my jazzed-up Creole version. You probably have everything you need in the pantry, so this is perfect for a weekday dinner when time is of the essence. On the other hand, pick up dessert and something for a salad on the way home from work, and you have a ³pasta con tonno² dinner that can be served by candlelight.

The basic recipe came from my Momıs church cookbook. Privately published little cookbooks like this are a treasure trove of great food, and sometimes are the only source for recipes for little-known regional specialities.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Break up enough dry linguini to measure one cup. Cook the noodles in boiling salted water for 8 minutes, drain, and toss with a dribble of olive oil in a large bowl. (This can be done ahead. Cool the pasta to room temperature, cover, and store in the refrigerator.)

To the bowl with the pasta add one 7-ounce can best quality albacore tuna, drained and flaked with a fork, 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese, one 10-3/4 ounce can Campbellıs cream of celery soup, one cup Frenchıs fried onions, slightly crushed, one teaspoon Johnıs Creole seasoning (see archive for recipe), 1/2 cup milk and a few grinds of black pepper. Combine well, then turn into a greased 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle the top with 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs and a little more Creole seasoning mix.

Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Like all casseroles, this one is amenable to endless variation. Substitute crushed crackers or potato chips for the bread crumbs. Fancy it up with grilled fresh tuna, a homemade celery cream sauce, or your own crisply fried onions or shallots, or all of these, if you have the time. Cooked chopped vegetables, roasted peppers, or mushrooms can be added in addition to or instead of the tuna.

John Tullock is an expert gardener and self-taught cook who likes to develop new recipes using his own fresh produce and the best from the local market. His interest in plants and horticulture begin in childhood, and he holds a masters degree in biology from The University of Tennessee. He also co-owns "Native Sons Nursery," a retail business that specializes in rare ornamental and gourmet vegetable plants.

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