Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Lightened Up Turkey Noodle Casserole

When one cooks a 23lb turkey for Thanksgiving, one inevitably has leftover turkey. The first few days of "repeat Thanksgiving" meals are fine, but after a few trips around the block, you're probably looking for something different to do with your turkey. The recipe I'm sharing today is exactly what you need!

Turkey noodle casserole is a spin on tuna noodle casserole - the same basic premise, but changing up the protein. It's a perfect dish to use up your dark meat (I just can't eat a turkey sandwich with dark meat, but toss it in cheese sauce and I'm good to go!) and change up the flavors of your leftover turkey.

When searching for a recipe to base my dish off of, I had one key criterion: no mushroom soup. A lot of casseroles are made with a "cream of" soup for the base, and most recipes for turkey noodle casserole include the addition of several cans of cream of mushroom (to replicate the flavor of traditional green bean casserole, I think). When you have a mushroom-hating husband, that's not really such a good thing (if I want him to eat it, anyway). So the search was on: find a recipe that looked yummy, but didn't call for fungus.

Luckily, I found something pretty much perfect! The base for this recipe is a homemade cheese sauce, which seems daunting, but really isn't. As long as you go slowly and cook carefully, you, too, can make a simple, delicious cheese sauce, and then pour it into this delicious dish. It would also make an excellent macaroni and cheese, but that is another recipe for another day.

I took a few steps to lighten up the recipe, which seemed necessary after stuffing ourselves silly with Thanksgiving foods for the previous few days. Changes include decreasing the amount of noodles (doesn't really make a difference!), increasing the amount of veggies, and swapping sour cream for Greek yogurt (my favorite substitute!). I used skim milk to make the sauce, and it turned out just perfectly - no need for added fat by using something else. I also threw in the fresh herbs that I had leftover from Thanksgiving, and they were such a great addition. They brightened up the flavors of the dish so beautifully. If you don't have fresh, I'd still add some dried, but know that you can make it without, if need be. It's versatile!

I really do hope you find an opportunity to try the recipe (maybe use rotisserie chicken if you don't have turkey on hand?), because it was so. dang. delicious. I wanted to eat the whole pan... but refrained, and settled for having it for lunch a couple times this week.

I deem this one a success: Lindsay lightened, husband approved. Can't beat it!

Just look at that melty, cheesy goodness!
Turkey Noodle Casserole
Lightly adapted from here
Serves 6 - 8

  • 6 ounces dried egg noodles 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion (about 1 small onion) 
  • 1 cup chopped carrots 
  • 1 cup chopped celery 
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 1 ½ cups skim milk 
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • ½ Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped 
  • ½ Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped 
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar, divided 
  • 2 cups cooked, chopped turkey 
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt 
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs 
  • salt and pepper 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until al dente (about 7 minutes). Drain and return to pot. 
  3. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until tender and softened (about 10 minutes). Add garlic and cook for another minute. 
  4. Add flour and stir until absorbed and the "raw" tasted cooked out (about 1 - 2 minutes). Vegetables will look clumpy and kind of gummy – this is ok! Turn down heat just a little. While whisking mixture constantly, slowly pour in milk and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened (about 3 minutes). 
  5. Add 1 ¼ cups (roughly) shredded cheese and stir until melted. Sauce should not boil, just cook until thick and creamy. 
  6. Add the cayenne, thyme, and sage, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. 
  7. Mix turkey and Greek yogurt into cheese sauce, then add that mixture to noodles. Stir until well-combined and everything is coated evenly. 
  8. Grease 9”x13” baking dish. Pour noodle mixture into baking dish and distribute evenly. top with remaining cheddar cheese (one layer) and panko breadcrumbs (separate layer). 
  9. Bake until casserole is warm and cheese is bubbling (about 30 minutes). 
I just want to live inside that pan for like... 20 minutes.

Never The Same Spice Twice


Ashley Barnhill said...

This look SO good! Anything that has noodles and cheese is a win in my book! :)

Ashley said...

Whoaaa that looks amazing! Sadly my BF doesn't like cheese... so I guess I'll have to find one of those cream of mushroom recipes instead, ha! :)

Eat Drink and Be Mary said...

This looks so good. I love tuna casserole this seems like a great variation!

Lisa said...

One has an impressively large family to need a 23 pound turkey. This one only cooked a 6 pound breast. And still had leftovers.

Aileen said...

This looks great! And it's perfect for all of our leftovers from Thanksgiving!

Stephanie @ My Freckled Life said...

Yumm!!! I need to try this, I have SOOOOO much turkey left over! Also, I love that you found/made one without cream of mushroom soup. Blech. I love mushrooms, and there is really nothing in that that remotely resembles actual mushrooms.