by Andrea Watman
With great sorrow and deepest affection, Zabar's announces the passing of our creative director, Andrea Watman. Read Andrea's obituary. We're republishing her wonderful and popular recipe and story for "Grandma Bertha's Sunda Tuna Casserole". We miss you Andrea.
My sister Joy and I spent summers with our grandparents in Long Beach, NY. We had a four bedroom bungalow on Georgia Avenue (four bedrooms, an indoor toilet, outside shower, no closets and just a few termites).
It was in that kitchen I learned to cook by watching my Grandma make dinner. Sunday’s were always exciting. Our relatives would journey out to “the beach” from the Bronx – actually they never went to the beach, but they did breath in the ocean air.
Now – most families would barbecue – but not at my house. My grandmother hated the barbecue – it was never clean enough, she hated the flavor or the charcoal and lighter fluid and yes, she knew sooner or later we would set the house on fire.
She would crack out the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, in the trusted blue box, and make the best Tuna Casserole ever. She baked it in the afternoon so that the kitchen would cool before we ate. She would slice cucumbers and fresh tomatoes – and dinner was served.
I no longer use the blue box – but this is her recipe, just slightly updated.
Serves at least 12 hungry people.
2 Pounds De Cecco Elbow Macaroni
2 Cans Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
8 Large Eggs
1 Large Bag Frozen Peas
1 Large Sweet Onion - Finely Minced
½ Cup Mayonnaise
2 Large Cans Solid White Tuna – in Water
4 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 Cup Shredded Fontina Cheese
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
Corn Oil for the Pan
Corn Flake Crumbs or Bread Crumbs for Topping
(I really prefer the corn flake crumbs – you should be able to find them near the bread crumbs in your local supermarket. Its not corn flake cereal – it is a box of corn flake crumbs)
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Do not overcook. You want the pasta to be firm since it is going to be baked. Drain well.
In a large bowl add the tuna (drain and discard water then mash with a fork to break apart) mushroom soup, frozen peas, mayonnaise, minced onion, lightly beaten eggs, and shredded cheese. (Yes, you can use the packages of shredded cheese – but fresh cheese really makes a big difference). Mix well and add drained pasta then mix thoroughly too evenly distribute tuna mixture and pasta.
Add a few teaspoons of oil to bottom of a large lasagna pot – or large disposable aluminum roasting pan. Add pasta mixture – sprinkle corn flakes crumbs on top for crunch - and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Please Note: Because of the eggs the casserole will raise slightly while cooking so I usually bake on a cookie sheet to prevent a sticky oven mess.
Allow to cool at least 20 minutes before serving.
Serve warm, serve room temperature – just enjoy!
CAN BE FROZEN!
PS: You can omit the peas, you can add carrots, you can use cheddar cheese only or substitute your favorite cheese. You can use celery not onion. You can omit one can of soup and add a can of unsweetened condensed milk (or unsweetened evaporated milk), use can even change the shape of the pasta – the one thing you can not do to this recipe is mess it up!