This Tuna Noodle Casserole recipe made me cry, but not for the reasons that you might think.
I’ve spent the past week or so sifting through old recipe files from my grandmother and her best friend, Aunt Bee. To say that it has been a step back in time would be a huge understatement.
My grandmother passed away when I was just 13, so Aunt Bee has stepped in as a surrogate grandmother — especially in recent years. In sorting through the old files, I have uncovered personal notes that the young women exchanged, dinner party menus from the 1960’s, recipe cards that are dated back to 1959, and other personal mementos that were stashed in the folders along the way.
My grandmother met Aunt Bee when their husbands served together in the army. It was a friendship that stood the test of time — after children were born and grown, after multiple military transfers, after their husbands passed away, and right up until my grandmother’s death. Aunt Bee can share stories with me that nobody else knows, and can give me a glimpse at their lives as young mothers and wives.
In a recent letter, Aunt Bee mailed me her yellowed, stained recipe card for Tuna Noodle Casserole, along with a quick story about the dish. This Tuna Noodle Casserole made her quite famous among the other military wives! It’s the dish that Aunt Bee gave to other army families when (in her words), “there had been a mishap.” It’s the way that Aunt Bee showed love and support, and it’s the meal that she made to comfort her friends and family.
In recent years, Aunt Bee’s daughter-in-law, Joan, ran into someone who had received one of Aunt Bee’s Tuna Noodle Casseroles after one of those tragic mishaps many, many years ago. That person told Joan that she had NEVER FORGOTTEN about Bee’s kindness and the dinner that nourished her during a very difficult time.
This Tuna Noodle Casserole brings tears to my eyes because I think of my grandmother, of her incredible friendship with Aunt Bee, and of the life that they shared together long before I was born. When I prepare the simple dinner for my own family now, I feel overwhelmingly blessed for the ability to taste, touch, and enjoy the same comforting meal that my grandmother and her best friend shared so many years ago. I am grateful for this tie to the past, which is so much more than just food.
And all of the history aside, this Tuna Noodle Casserole is so darn good that it just might make you cry, too!
Aunt Bee's Famous Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 1 (12 ounce) can “good” tuna (I used albacore)
- 2 cups cooked egg noodles
- 1 (8.5 ounce) small can Le Seur peas, drained
- 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (NOT diluted)
- 1 cup cream (or whole milk)
- ½ teaspoon curry
- Optional topping: ¾ cup grated Cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spray a 1 ½-quart casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients. Transfer to prepared dish.
- Bake casserole, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes (or until heated through).
- If you want to add some cheese, just sprinkle the grated Cheddar over the top of the casserole during the final 5 minutes of baking. Return to oven until cheese melts and casserole is hot and bubbly.
Nutrition information was calculated using Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom Soup and whole milk. The optional cheese is not included in the calculation.