Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cheesy Tuna Bake, American Home magazine, March 1949

Ok, truth be told this is just Tuna Casserole.  But I couldn't call it that.  "Tuna Casserole" brings back memories of canned cream of mushroom soup, tuna, and peas heated with pasta and heaped onto a plate in a big sloppy mess.  Doesn't all that '70s goodness sound appetizing?

Here's the original recipe:

Here's my version:

1 lb Box of pasta, cooked al dente
2 T Butter
2 T Flour
1 C Milk (I use whole milk as this is what we have in the house)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 lb Deli American cheese
1-7 OZ Can of tuna
1/3 C Unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 t Garlic powder
1T melted butter

Heat the butter over a medium low heat in a large pot.  (Why a large pot?  So you can mix everything in it and not have to wash a bowl too.)  Stir in flour.  Add milk slowly and stir until there are no lumps.  Use a whisk if you like and pretend you're Julia Child.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Boil until the sauce thickens a tiny bit.  (Congrats.  You just made a white sauce, the classic kitchen staple before Campbells' Mad Men told us we could cook with their soup.)

Preheat oven to 400.  Take the pot off the heat.  Add the cheese.  Melt and stir.  Add the tuna, separating with a fork, and stir so it's distributed evenly.  Stir in the pasta.  Put it all in a casserole dish.  Mix breadcrumbs with garlic powder and then with melted butter.  Sprinkle over tuna/pasta mixture.  Bake for 15 minutes or until breadcrumbs are brown and tuna/pasta mixture is heated thru.

Here's what you get:

My family thought it was good.  Kind of like mac and cheese with tuna, which I suppose it is.  I served it with a crudite plate and overpriced organic strawberries.  Everyone liked it for dinner but the leftovers didn't fair so well.  The re-heating made it a bit dry.  The pooch didn't mind and loved it as a topping on his usual dinner.

Just for fun here's the picture of how Cheese Tuna Casserole is supposed to be served:

Apparently you're supposed to leave the tuna unmixed and pop it out of the can in the center of the pasta.  Then garnish it with dried parsley.  They're really trying to elevate this dish to a gourmet meal.   But this is after the war.  Things were looking up.  War rations were a thing of the past as was the economic uncertainty of the Great Depression.  Perhaps radishes cut to look like roses was all it took to feel good about life again.

Here's the cover of the magazine. (Never heard of American Home Magazine?  Check it out here and in my post here.)  It's just darling and really captures the idealism of the 1950's which was just nine months away when this issue hit newsstands.

These kids look appropriately bundled for the kind of March we've been having.  I hope it's beginning to feel spring-like where you live.  The sun is out today but I still need a jacket...sigh...



  1. I was a very adventurous eater as a child and liked most things, but could never cultivate a passion for seafood (interestingly, at the time, neither could my two siblings), even as an adult, I've only just barely come to enjoy certain types (salmon, being my fave fish to eat), so I never got into tuna casseroles like this. That said, I'm all for them if shredded chicken, turkey, or ham are used instead.

    Wishing you a fantastic Monday & week ahead,
    ♥ Jessica

    1. I think leftover chicken would be good in place of tuna. Nice idea!

      I never liked fish as a child except tuna in the can. It was a staple in our house.

      Happy Monday to you too!

  2. Sarah, I've never had tuna ("poor man's chicken" as it's often referred to in my vintage cookbooks) heated. I'm also not a big seafood person although I do have and lobster on occasion. Like Jessica, I use leftover pieces of chicken or turkey in my casseroles, usually. Yours looks good, though!

    (And it's still cold but the sun is out!)

    1. "Poor man's chicken"! Ha ha!! This just cracked me up.

      Let me know what you think if you try it. And I dare you to tell your hubby you're having "poor man's chicken" casserole for dinner. ;)

  3. Ohh...I'm going to have to try this one. The Mister LOVES tuna casseroles. LOVES them. I'm not as big of a fan but to stay happily married I toss a casserole in front of him every once in a while.

    I love that it is 660 calories per serving. Of course, that is still less than a milkshake but it seems like a lot, doesn't it?

    One final thing--I was reading an old forum Flickr about selling vintage magazines. The consensus was that nobody is interested in old magazines except for the advertisements--go ahead and chop them up to sell the ads. I wanted to weep and shake these people and tell them that "we're here!" please don't decimate those magazines! We actually DO read what's in them!

    1. Yes, the calories are high to me as well but if I remember correctly the recommended caloric intake for the average adult was 2500 to 3000 back then. People moved more so it didn't seem to hurt them. Also people didn't snack as much. But I bet you know this already, Dr. JA.

      I gasped when I read your last paragraph!!! Eeeeeekkkkk!!! The ads are interesting but they aren't the whole story of vintage life. The articles are more interesting. I love reading them. I've been tempted to cut out some ads and frame them for my kitchen but I can't even do that! Stop the madness!!!!