Recreating Family Favorites – Tunaless Casserole

Happy Monday, everyone! I know it’s warming up outside for many of you, so casserole season might not be in its prime, but I wanted to share one of my favorite dishes with you all – tunaless casserole. From what I remember, my mother planned our weekly menu, did the grocery shopping, and cooked up a delicious dinner for our family every evening. I remember chicken ala king, spaghetti nights (complete with homemade spaghetti sauce), fresh cut french fries, stir-fries full of awesome, kebobs of colorful veggies, tacos stuffed to their capacity, and corn on the cob. But what I remember most was her tuna casserole. There was something about the texture of the topping, the creaminess, the tiny pimientos, and those crusty edges with the crunchy-but-chewy bits of pasta. I loved everything about that casserole. Everything.

Becoming vegan was an easy decision for me, but recreating old family favorites wasn’t the easiest. I can not possibly explain how happyfaced I was to have finally, and successfully, veganized my mother’s tuna casserole; luckily, tweaking it when I became gluten-free wasn’t overly complicated. Thank goodness! I am sure many of you may have a few memories and some strong emotions tied to certain dishes and foods; for me, there’s a lot inside this tunaless casserole – a lot more than just the ingredients. I’m inviting you all to share your veganized ‘n deglutenized family favorites – those dishes you find comfort in, those dishes that take you back, those dishes that make you smile and warm your soul. So here’s my family favorite, and for those of you who try it, I truly hope you enjoy it every bit as much as I do!

ingredients:

“tuna”:
1 cup tvp (textured vegetable protein. you can always skip the tvp & use lightly smashed chickpeas)
1 cup vegetable broth (just make sure it’s gluten-free if store-bought)
1 tsp dulse flakes (a 1/4 sheet of toasted nori whizzed in the food processor will work just the same)

gravy:
2 cups unsweetened, plain almond milk
2 tbsp safflower oil
2 tbsp chickpea flour (brown rice, oat, or sorghum should work nicely as well)
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
1 tsp yellow miso
1 tsp sherry (or lemon juice)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt

topping:
2 slices of gluten-free bread
1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 tsp sea salt

other awesomenesses:
1 (16oz.) package of brown rice pasta (I used sprials)
3 large stalks of celery, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 small green pepper, de-seeded & finely diced
1/3 cup vegan mayo (I use Vegenaise)
2 oz jar of pimientos, drained
1 tsp olive oil

what you’ll need:

large mixing bowl
food processor
small sauce pan/pot + lid
medium sauce pan/pot
large pot
whisk
large casserole dish

what’cha gotta do:

Preheat your oven to 350ºF.

Bring 1 cup of veggie broth to a boil in the small saucepan. Add the tvp & dulse flakes, give it a stir, and cover with lid. Set aside, to reconstitute, for 10 minutes.

Add in 1 tsp olive oil to the medium-sized saucepan & heat to medium. Once oil is heated toss in the diced celery, onion, and green pepper. Saute, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften. Transfer the sauteed veggies to the large mixing bowl.

Wipe out the saucepan & return it to the stove. Heat the 2 tbsp of safflower oil on high heat and whisk in 2 tbsp chickpea flour. Continually whisk the flour in the oil for a few minutes until it turns golden brown then whisk in just 1 cup of the almond milk. Meanwhile, stir 2 tbsp of arrowroot powder into the other cup of almond milk then whisk this mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the gravy & add in 1 tsp yellow miso. Continue to whisk the gravy until it become thick; season with the black pepper, sea salt, and sherry. Set aside.

Using the large pot, cook the brown rice pasta for just 5 minutes – drain, rinse with cold water, and add the pasta to the large mixing bowl.

While the pasta is cooking combine all the ingredients for the topping into your food processor & pulse until you’ve got breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Add the gravy, tvp (“tuna”), drained pimientos, and vegenaise to the large mixing bowl and give everything a good stir, making sure it’s well combined. Adjust seasonings to taste, then transfer the mixture into a large casserole dish. Top the casserole with the breadcrumb topping and bake the casserole, uncovered, for 25 minutes on 350ºF. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Dig in and enjoy!

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8 Comments

  1. Posted April 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I never liked tuna, as a kid. But for some reason, I love vegan tuna recipes. Maybe because they’re tuna-free. I must try your casserole, Jessy!

    • jessy
      Posted April 27, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      please do give it a whirl, Bianca – it’s oh-so delicious and a very comforting dish, as i find many casseroles to be. mmmm! the leftovers reheat well (we always have plenty with this dish), and sometimes i even halve the recipe and use a smaller casserole dish and it works great, too!

  2. Lara
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    This is great! I always loved tuna casserole, but haven’t eaten it in many years. I’m putting this on my meal plan for next week.

    • jessy
      Posted April 27, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      yay! thanks, Lara! tuna casserole always has a special place in my heart – and please let me know how you like it!

  3. Posted April 27, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    That looks fantastic, tuna casserole was a pregan favourite of mine & I’m looking forward to trying this gluten free version.

    • jessy
      Posted April 27, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      thanks so much, Jojo! i think you’ll find this xgfx version is pretty darn close to what you might remember the original dish to be. it’s just as tasty as i remember it being, but it’s cruelty free – which makes it even more awesome!

  4. Posted May 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I can’t wait to try this! It’s definitely going on the menu for this week.

  5. jessy
    Posted May 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    yay, Deb! let me know how you like it – it’s my favorite and i hope you enjoy it, too!

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