This dish is basically a grown-up version of Tuna Helper. (Despite my mom being the anti-processed food extremist that she was, which I now thank her for, even I tried Tuna Helper as a kid.)
Don’t judge. :)
Not only is this from-scratch version more flavorful (thanks to a combo of sharp white Cheddar and Egyptian Roumi cheeses), but it’s also healthier. Half of the pasta has been replaced with cauliflower, rounding this dish out and making it a full meal in itself. With cheese, milk, and a can of tuna providing most of the protein in this recipe, it’s also a pretty cheap meal!
Egyptian Roumy Cheese
This recipe calls for a type of cheese that might be new to you. Egyptian Roumy cheese (also transliterated Roumi, Roomy, Roomi, Romy, and Romi, and also known as Ras) is a hard, crumbly cheese that’s similar to Pecorino Romano, but typically with just a fraction of Pecorino Romano’s price tag (so be sure to snatch it up if you can find it!). It has a pungent, salty flavor and it melts well. If you can’t find Roumy, Pecorino Romano works well as a substitute.
Normally I encourage people to play with a recipe to suit their own tastes, but one thing I would definitely suggest not omitting in this recipe is the 1/2 cup of parsley. In most of my recipes, I add parsley as an afterthought, usually to spruce up the color a bit. Well, in this dish, a bit of green color is absolutely necessary…otherwise, it’s a pretty blah-looking dish. (And even if the taste is amazing, if it looks boring no one will want to eat it.) So be sure you don’t skip the parsley; or for an easy colorful variation, use blanched broccoli instead of the cauliflower.
If you enjoyed Tuna Helper as a kid, I think you’ll love this grown-up rendition; and just an FYI, kids enjoy this grown-up rendition too. :)
- ½ lb (225 g) small to medium-sized pasta, any kind you like (I used short tubular pasta called Canneroni)
- 1 (2 lb/900 g) head of cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets (about 8 cups of florets)
- 200 g (7 oz) sharp white Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 80 g (3 oz) Egyptian Roumy cheese (I used young-ripened), grated (see Note below)
- 2½ tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
- 1 large white or yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
- 3½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups (710 ml) milk (low-fat is fine), at room temperature
- 1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 (6 oz/170 g) can tuna in water, drained
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Butter, to grease the casserole dish
- Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions; set aside.
- Bring a pot of salted water up to a rolling boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until fork-tender, about 5 minutes; drain and set aside.
- Toss together the white Cheddar and Egyptian Roumy cheeses in a bowl; measure out ¾ cup and reserve it for topping.
- Add the oil to a medium-large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic and rosemary; cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly.
- Whisk in the flour and cook 1 minute, then gradually whisk in the milk; stir in the Worcestershire sauce, salt, and black pepper. Bring to gentle boil, stirring constantly, and then remove from heat.
- Whisk in the cheese (except the reserved ¾ cup for topping) until smooth. Stir in the pasta, cauliflower, tuna, and parsley. Taste and add additional salt and black pepper as desired.
- Preheat the broiler and butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Pour the pasta mixture into the dish and sprinkle the reserved ¾ cup of cheese on top.
- Broil until the cheese melts and serve warm.
Freezing: This casserole freezes and re-heats well! I like to thaw it overnight, and then re-heat it in a 350F oven (covered with foil) until warm throughout (about 20 minutes).
I couldn’t find Egyptian Roumy cheese and substituted Gruyere instead. The casserole was delicious.
Now I really want to try Roumy!! Unfortunately I’ve never seen it around here, but I’ll keep my eyes open. This is one big pan of comfort!
Wow, Faith, this recipe is amazing! You truly are the working mother’s best friend!! As usual, way to go!! Betsy
Meg @ The Housewife in Training Files says
Love the idea of adding cauliflower into the pasta and not as a sauce component! Will have to try this!
Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health says
this is perfect for weeknights!
Meagan @ A Zesty Bite says
This casserole looks great. I love all the flavors and will be saving it for later.
Looks perfect! I’m not a tuna fan, but I’d love to make this with a little chicken. My Mom was totally anti processed foods and I am VERY thankful for it now!
A delicious combination! Your mac & cheese looks really good.