Tuna casserole. Just the name brings up fond memories (and heavenly aromas) for most of us who grew up with this classic dish. But this isn’t just ANY tuna casserole. Nope, this one is extra special to me.
My grandma, or “Bubbie” (my father’s mother), Madeline, passed away 1 year ago this week, and she was famous for her “Tuna Romanoff”, as the original recipe calls it (unclear where exactly it came from, but probably some classic cookbook somewhere). It’s the dish that my siblings and I constantly craved from when we were young. We always requested it when we came over to my Bubbie and Zayde’s house. My Bubbie usually had one stashed in the freezer, because she knew how much we loved it.
Reinventing a Classic
So it’s been a crave-able dish for so long. And for good reason – there is a TON of fat in here (my fellow keto community, rejoice!) lots of full-fat dairy!!! But there’s also a lot of ingredients that I personally don’t eat these days. Things like cream of mushroom soup (too much sodium and I’d rather make it myself), and pasta (too many carbs for me, personally). I’m all for the classics, but I love using fresh mushrooms instead of the condensed can of thick mushroom soup. And instead of pasta? Ah, how about cauliflower? This time I used mini florets!
So it seemed only fitting that for my Bubbie’s 1st yahrzeit, why not re-create her rich, creamy, savory tuna casserole into something a bit more Rachel-friendly, but more modern too – a perfect way to celebrate her life!
Preserving a Memory
And, to top it off, a few months ago, I decided to have this recipe framed in this cool gold foil curated piece, from minted.com. I feel so grateful to have a few copies of some classic Bubbie recipes she wrote down many years ago.
I got a few other recipes too – a decadent and rich spinach and cheese mostaccioli and an insanely buttery, ooey gooey St. Louis coffee cake. The cake was known, when my dad was growing up, as the “Shiva” cake, because when the kids came home from school and they saw a cake sitting on the kitchen table, they knew that a Shiva call was in the books. Sorry kids, no cake tonight for you!
It’s little stories of my Bubbie and Zayde like these that are so touching, yet there’s always a little bit of humor in them. Bubbie had many “Shiva” cakes stored in her freezer – I guess like any Jewish grandmother would.
Another funny story, she used to put her garbage in the freezer, so it wouldn’t smell! Honestly, I think it’s kind of a brilliant idea! The first time my mom came home to meet my dad’s parents, she opened up the freezer and looked a little stunned and immediately went to tell my dad about the oddities she found in that ice box. I know, I’m dating myself, ha! 🙂
Mad (as she was affectionately known) would have absolutely loved this. She loved feeding people so I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to honor her memory. Plus, she was a very classy lady, so a gold foiled-frame with her recipe, and reinventing a “classic”? It’s Bubbie-approved perfection in my book. I know she’d be smiling, giving me her lovable “Bubbie kisses” and saying “oh doll, how special! What a wonderful treat, Rachel Shira”.
This is for you Bubbie – I miss you!
My Bubbie’s Tuna Casserole Recipes
- 2 cups cauliflower florets I used frozen (thawed) mini florets
- 3 5 oz. cans tuna (packed in water)
- 1 cup full-fat sour cream
- 1 cup full-fat cottage cheese
- 1/4 cup green beans, sliced into small chunks You can use fresh or frozen or even canned - whatever you got!
- 1 cup mushrooms, diced Use any kind you like! White button mushrooms work just fine here 🙂
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
- 2 tbsp pimento, or roasted red peppers
- 1.5 tsp dehydrated onion
- 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
- 1/4 tsp thyme
Pre-heat oven to 400F.
Add the ghee to a hot skillet and saute the mushrooms, about 5 minutes until softened.
Add the heavy cream and season with a dash of salt and pepper and add the thyme.
In a large mixing bowl, add the tuna, cauliflower, pimento, sour cream, cottage cheese, dehydrated onion, seasoned salt, pepper, Tabasco and pecans (just take a dry skillet and toast the pecans for a few minutes over medium heat - be careful not to burn - then roughly chop).
Pour the tuna mixture into a greased casserole dish.
Add the mushroom and cream mixture and pour on top - do no mix in.
Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
Serve hot! YUM!