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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In just three weeks, dinner tables across the country will be covered with the usual Thanksgiving Day trimmings and the usual potluck trappings. And someone, somewhere, will bring a tuna noodle casserole.

ELLEN BROWN: You know, a lot of food professionals keep saying we eat with our eyes first. I don't think we eat with our senses first. I think we eat first with our emotions.

SIEGEL: That's Ellen Brown, founding food editor of USA Today and author of the new cookbook "Mac & Cheese." She's got a story for our series Found Recipes, in which we ask cooks, bakers and food writers to tell us about a dish that surprised or delighted them. For Ellen Brown, it's her quest to give that 1950's hot-dish standby, tuna noodle casserole, a 21st century reboot.

BROWN: All of the recipes that go in my books are tasted by some wonderful friends who all have palates I trust. When I told them about the plan, they looked really worried.

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BROWN: Was I going to make it Szechuan? Suddenly there's chilies in it? Was I going to add fru-fru stuff like radicchio? They didn't want the authentic one made with a can of soup, but they did want it to remind them of the meal that was spooned on to their plates by ladies with hairnets in elementary school. The original tuna noodle casserole was overcooked egg noodles and a few cans of tuna with a can of cream of mushroom soup. And that's topped with some crushed potato chips.

Mine is done with dried porcini mushrooms, which have a much more intense mushroom flavor than the button mushrooms that are used in the can of soup. I added some mozzarella cheese to make it a little bit richer, some fresh thyme to enliven the flavor. I think that was a really crucial difference. And there's a significant amount of sauteed onions and celery. But I didn't want to go too far afield. The topping is still crushed potato chips. But in my case, I used reduced fat, kettle-cooked chips because they stay crisper longer.

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BROWN: And my tasters arrived. They were presented with a plate. On one side was the Campbell soup version and on the other side was mine. Everybody loved the updated version. They all said it was delicious and they couldn't wait to make it themselves. But what I think they were most excited about was that it rekindled that kind of wonderful emotional feeling they had when they ate this dish as a kid.

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SIEGEL: Ellen Brown. Her latest cook book is called "Mac & Cheese." You can find her revamped recipe for tuna noodle casserole at our food blog, "The Salt."

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