I've read three conditions will drive one to make a tuna noodle casserole
(This post may contain affiliate links)
desperation, laziness, or an overwhelming craving
Maybe herein lies a bit of wisdom, admittedly, during my 40+ years, all three have applied
I think back on the season of a new marriage and a full-time career as a college student. The years during which the kids were born, and money was tight. In the cupboard, I could always find a noodle of some shape, a cream of something soup, and a can of tuna
My goodness, that sure seems like a long time ago
Turning a page in life's book, I was myself beginning a career in IT. The kids were toddlers, there was a wee bit more money in the checking account, and my most precious commodity now seemed to be
After a long day, a lot of times the best I could muster was to boil some water, find the can opener, add some creamy as a binder, a few smashed potato chips to the top, and bake for thirty minutes
Somehow desperation seemed ok, understandable even. Laziness, terribly unfortunate
Fast-forward to this week, July in Iowa, which should be the season for grilling or salads filled with all things organic and green. Instead, I found myself with my favorite church lady cookbooks on my desk, feeling nostalgic, and a craving for
a tuna noodle casserole
This certainly is an updated version of a comfort-food classic
Canned soup is replaced with a homemade sauce that begins as a simple roux, to which fresh herbs and sherry are added. The butter, fresh mushrooms, shallot, and lemon zest round out the flavor combination. Garlic panko topping adds a dramatic finish
It's creamy without being soupy, truly the sum of its ingredients, which give a well-balanced flavor. The final mix fit nicely into a 10″ cast iron pan, and emerged bubbly and browned after about thirty minutes.
A few notes
The original author recommends using oil-packed tuna for better texture and flavor, which I'm sure is delicious. At our house, my husband grilled three or four cod fillets, which I shredded and added instead.
I couldn't resist adding a package of frozen mixed veggies, if not only for the sake of color, then for the bit of nostalgia they bring
ps: There are two tuna noodle casserole recipes I've loved over the years. The first (and original to the site) is adapted from Cooking Light. The second is from Food52.
— — —
~ Adapted from Cooking Light .. here
Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 8 oz penne pasta
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ¼ lb shiitake mushrooms, chopped
- 1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 - 3 cups spinach, large stems removed, roughly chopped
- 2 cups red bell peppers, chopped (a mix of colored bell peppers is a nice substitute too, if only for the added bit of color)
- 3 - 4 (5 oz) cans albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
- 3 Tbsp mustard
- 2 tsp fresh basil,
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- small pinch fine-grain sea salt + more to taste
- pinch freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
- ½ cup (2 oz) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
- 2 cups frozen veggie mix
- ¼ - ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 325° F
- Cook the noodles until al dente (according to the directions on the package)
- In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add mushrooms, and cook 2 or 3 minutes, until they're beginning to release their liquid.
- Add garlic and bell peppers, cook 3 or 4 minutes more.
- Add the spinach and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, allowing it to wilt
- Make the sauce:
- Measure the spices ahead of time and set aside
- In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add the milk. Stir constantly, until it's on the verge of boiling.
- Add Greek yogurt, flour, mustard, basil, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper, all while continuing to stir
- Add ¼ Parmesan cheese and remove from heat, continuing to stir until the cheese has melted. (the sauce should be thick)
- Combine the noodles, tuna, sauce, frozen veggies, cooked mushrooms and spinach
- Transfer to a shallow baking dish, top with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until the casserole is golden and bubbly.
~ Adapted from Food52 .. here
Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 5 ½ Tbsp butter, divided
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup portobello mushrooms, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 shallot, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- ¾ Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
- 1 ½ Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
- 1 ½ Tbsp fresh chives, minced
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- ¼ cup whole-wheat pastry flour (any flour will work)
- 1 cup milk (whole is best)
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 cans oil-packed tuna, drained (** I used 3-4 grilled cod fillets, flaked)
- 1 small bag of frozen mixed veggies
- 8 oz egg noodles cooked until al dente and drained
- salt + fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 350° F
- In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 1 Tbs. of butter and heat until foaming.
- Stir in the mushrooms and cook them until they've given off all of their liquid and cooked through (~ 10 minutes).
- Season lightly with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Add another ½ Tbsp butter to the frying pan, along with the onion, shallot, and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes, until they've softened.
- Add the chopped herbs and sherry. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Stir the mushrooms into this mix and then set this aside.
- In another saucepan, heat 3 Tbsp butter over medium-high, until foaming.
- Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Then whisk in the milk and chicken stock, bit by bit, making a smooth sauce.
- Cook while stirring until just slightly thickened (another minute or two). Then add the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Flake the tuna and combine with the white sauce, mushroom-onion mixture, mixed veggies (if using), and the noodles
- Grease an 8 X 8-inch baking pan and transfer the casserole mixture into it.
- In a small pan, melt the last tablespoon of butter.
- Stir in the minced garlic and the breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
- Sprinkle them over the casserole.
- Put the casserole in the oven and bake until it is bubbly (~ about 30 minutes)
Both recipes sound good and are much better than the tuna noodle casserole that I currently make. I need to try both of them!
I love tuna noodle casserole but I have never prepared it this, at least with the ingredients you used anyway. I will try your recipe, the mushroom addition would be great.
It’s nice that you were able to formulate these recipes on those times when things were tight. The ingredients are immediately available in your cupboard and no wonder, it was your go-to recipe during those times. It also does looks really delicious.
I remember finishing up college after I had my kids. It wasn’t easy and I wouldn’t want to go back to those days, but I did learn how to wear so many different hats and I remember how tired I was . I’m not a fan of tuna (long story), but my family would love this casserole.
I used to make tuna noodle casserole a lot when my kids were little because they liked it. Now my son hates it for some reason, and I never get it. I think it is a great comfort food!
This sounds like the most delicious meal, it sounds perfect for a night when you need some comfort food but also want something that tastes incredible.
My son hates the word “casserole”, so I make casseroles stove top where it looks more like tossed pasta. I’m sure he would eat both of these as he loves mushrooms. I’m not as big of a fan, but I love spinach, so I would make that one.
What a brilliant idea to make them on the stovetop! Thanks Cheryl
I have never tried a tuna casserole before and no idea if I would like it as I am not big on tuna but this does look delicious
I am not a huge tuna casserole person but I think this could convert me. The added touch of the herbs really makes the dish!
There are days that I just have no desire to cook, this is a great recipe for those days. I love that it is a wholesome meal but doesnt take much time or energy to make for the family. I will have to try your recipe since it is a bit different than the one I am used to.
I haven’t had tuna noodle casserole in ages. It certainly has a nostalgia factor to it. It was always a staple at church potlucks, I assume because everyone had the ingredients on hand.
Things always taste better with a with a homemade sauce. I am always looking for quality recipes to try. I know this Tuna noodle casserole will be a hit with my family.
Reading this brings back a lot of memories of when my husband and i lived in our first apartment. We ate of simple and thrown together meals. Our budget was so tight that it often came down to a pasta, a can and some ground beef.
That looks amazing! I think casserole is the answer to any mom’s woes when it comes to not having enough time to prepare dinner for the whole family. It’s my go to and I love trying out recipes as well. I’ve never tried this one before.
Your Tuna casserole looks so good! My kids love tuna, sure they will love this recipe! The shiitake mushroom is my fave!
I hear you on the cravings! Tuna casserole is one of those leftovers from my childhood that I still really crave – lump them in with spaghetti o’s with things I love that I shouldn’t LOL!
I wont lie I havent had too many casseroles in my life. This looks like an interesting recipe. I think the breadcrumbs add a unique crunch to this dish.
Tuna casserole is something easy to make when you are a busy mom. Casseroles are nice to make because you can prepare them ahead of time and freeze them too. It is something I used to do when my kids were little. I have to admit I have been thinking about making tuna casserole but out of a box not homemade. This recipe looks so good that I will have to try it. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
I remember when I first heard of a tuna casserole oddly it was when my husband and I were just dating and he made it for me. Long long ago it was a simple meal to whip up that we happened to have the ingredients for at the time. Sometimes that craving still hits and it reminds me of those days as well. I would much rather be bbq-ing here in Iowa as well. lol
I will say I’ve never made tuna casserole but I defiantly relied on ramen noodles a lot back in college.
I love tuna , but do you know I have never made a tuna casserole before. I do remember my mom making it for us on a sat when I was younger. She always said it was a quick, tasty, Saturday meal to make when everyone was off for the weekends. I think I may try making one now and hope my kids will enjoy it! I know they already like the noodles so lets hope they like my casserole!
I am not a huge fan of fish and I don’t eat tuna at all. However, I bet these recipes would be amazing with chicken too! Have you tried that?
Time always seems to lacking. Whether its working or parenting!
It’s amazing how the recipes that we used to pull together when we were young (and broke) get upgraded along the way and become treasured family recipes. I’ve never made tuna noodle casserole, but I once pulled together baked mac and cheese from scraps left behind on the shelf of a convenience storm during a blizzard!
Butter with lemon plus garlic panko added as a topping sound extremely tasty. The marriage of those flavors in the taste buds is harmonious. Tuna is both healthy and delicious. We’ll just use gluten-free noodles since we’re sensitive of gluten.
I’ve been there starting life Ramon noodles was my best friend. Haaaa
I haven’t had a tuna casserole in years. My mom used to make it all the time. I’m going to try this with the gluten free panko…
I’ve only recently discovered how easy and delicious it is to add tuna to recipes. I can’t wait to try your recipes, I would have never thought to add mushrooms or mixed veggies to my tuna casserole.
This looks delicious. I absolutely love tuna noodle casserole. It’s one of those dishes that I never make even though I really like it. It brings back memories of my childhood…although my Mom’s batch never looked this good haha! PINNED. Thank you, I’ll definitely add this to the queue.