This is what happens with leftover Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey at my house - a noodle casserole! It‘s an old-fashioned classic your grandma probably used to make. I have revamped the traditional recipe so it doesn‘t use any condensed cream soups (I don‘t think there‘s anything inherently wrong with them, they just... creep me out for some reason, ahem). Don’t worry, it’s still absolutely easy and post-holiday tiredness friendly.It starts with a homemade creamy sauce and includes plenty of frozen vegetables (see? Easy!), leftover turkey meat and oodles of egg noodles. Sprinkle with cheese and finish in the oven for a wonderful way to enjoy those leftovers. If you don’t have any leftover turkey, it’s delicious with shredded rotisserie chicken, too.
3cups cooked and diced turkey meator use cooked chicken/rotisserie chicken
1poundegg noodlescooked according to package directions
1cupshredded cheeseI used a mix of sharp cheddar (for flavor) and mozzarella (for meltiness)
Prep: Heat the oven to 375°F and lightly grease a deep 9x13 inch casserole dish.
Make sauce: Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Stir in the flour until smooth. Whisk in the chicken broth and half-and-half and keep whisking over medium heat until thickened. Add all seasoning, then stir in the turkey meat, frozen vegetables and cream cheese. Stir in the noodles until evenly coated.
Assemble: Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Top with the cheese, then bake uncovered in the hot oven for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese has melted and casserole is bubbly.
Half-and-half, milk, cream... - I like this most with half-and-half, because the chances of it splitting are much smaller than with milk, and it’s not as heavy as cream (and I’m usually not too hungry after big holiday meals ;-) ). If you’re going with regular milk, whole milk works best (other varieties work OK, just make sure you let the milk come to room temperature for 10-15 minutes before using, and don’t boil too hot or the sauce could split). Another alternative would be evaporated milk.Garlic/onion powder: I usually choose to make this very, very easy. Hence the dried onion/garlic vs chopping fresh. If you feel very strongly about this, please feel free to sauté a chopped onion and some minced garlic in the butter before adding the flour.Turkey: Perfect for leftover turkey, but this recipe also works great with rotisserie chicken. If you have neither and want to use fresh:Dice 1 pound raw chicken or turkey breast and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat in 1/2 tablespoon oil for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned and almost done inside. Remove and set aside, then proceed with the recipe as written.
Frozen vegetables: I used a pretty standard frozen mix called “vegetable medley”. It’s with corn, carrots, peas and green beans. I’ve also used California Blend before, which is delicious as long as the cauliflower chunks aren’t too big.Cream cheese: I like using some cream cheese in a lot of my from-scratch creamy pasta/noodle recipes. Kind of as a replacement for Veelveta, ya know? If you’re not a big fan of cream cheese, you can try adding shredded mozzarella to the sauce instead.Noodles: I like wide egg noodles best here. But you could also do bowties, spirals or macaroni. I would steer clear from large tubular shapes (rigatoni etc), because the turkey and vegetables pieces tend to hide inside and it’s just not the same.
Roux: Cooking butter and flour together for a sauce is called making a “roux” (fancy French phrase for you right there). Since you’re making a light cream sauce (and not a dark gravy), pay attention to only lightly cook the two together, so they don’t brown. And please stick to the medium heat - if the flour turns black, your sauce will obviously not turn out.The second tricky bit is to make sure it doesn’t get lumpy. For that, make sure to whisk the broth and milk right as you put them into the pan, and keep whisking until the sauce has thickened.Cook the noodles just right: Don’t overcook the noodles, they will continue cooking as the casserole bakes. If you want to keep them from getting soggy even further, toss them with 1/2 tablespoon of butter before adding them to the sauce - the layer of fat will help to keep some of the moisture away.Freezer Instructions:I KNOW. It’s a leftover recipe. But what if you’re actually here because you’re looking for a make-ahead freezer meal (or you don’t want to throw out your leftovers, but you also don’t want to eat them right now?). See, good information to have.You can freeze this casserole for up to 3 months.Assemble the full casserole right up to the final baking step, let it cool for 30 minutes at room temperature, then cover tightly first with cling film and then with aluminum foil. Label with the name and use-by date (freeze for up to 3 months) before placing in the freezer.To heat from frozen: Remove the casserole from the freezer and unwrap. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the casserole is bubbly.