Casseroles are seldom the dish you boast about to your friends -- in fact, like old family photos, you might find them downright embarrassing -- but they remain a sound alternative for easy family meals. Enduring favorites, such as tuna and noodle casserole, combines pragmatic frugality with comfortingly nostalgic flavors, Basic versions require only a few inexpensive ingredients, and are quick and simple to prepare.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While it's warming, place a large pot of water on your stove to boil. Dice the onions, celery or other aromatics, and saute them until translucent in a small quantity of oil or butter.
Add your noodles or other pasta to the boiling water, and cook until just tender. They'll soften further in the casserole, so don't worry if they're slightly underdone. If you're using any fresh vegetables in the casserole, chop or dice them and add them to the boiling water during the last few minutes of cooking. This will par-cook or "blanch" them.
Drain the pasta, reserving a small quantity of the starchy water to thin your sauce if necessary. Pour the pasta, and fresh vegetables if included, into a large mixing bowl.
Open and drain the tuna, and break it up into smaller pieces with a fork. Add the tuna, frozen vegetables and mushroom soup to the noodles. Toss the ingredients until they're well mixed, and the noodles are evenly coated with the soup. Add a few tablespoons of your reserved cooking water, if needed.
Pour or spoon the noodle mixture into an oiled casserole dish. Spread the cheese on top of the noodles, then place the casserole in your preheated oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are fully cooked and the cheese topping is bubbly and lightly browned.
You can give this basic version of the casserole a number of twists, either to increase its "kid appeal" or to make it more nutritious. For example, you can sprinkle crumbled potato chips over the cheese as a crunchy topping, or croutons of buttered bread. Cut back your sodium content by using homemade soup or cream sauce, instead of canned, and swapping out the conventional cheese for low-sodium versions. Pump up the flavor and nutrition with ingredients such as garlic, colorful diced peppers, and spices or fresh herbs.