Tuna Noodle Casserole

I wasn’t raised in a home with tuna noodle casserole in the rotation, but it’s still comfort food in every sense. It’s warm and bubbly and just a bit creamy. I am pretty sure most classic recipes call for a can of soup. I created this version from scratch using campanelle, a curly pasta noodle instead of the traditional wide egg noodles. If you can’t find campanelle (Barilla makes this shape), you can use any other short pasta or egg noodles in its place.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (from one large lemon)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into chunks
  • 1 pound campanelle (or other short pasta)
  • 2 – 6 oz. cans oil-packed white tuna
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat panko
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil.
  • Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Remove 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water before draining.
  • While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and lemon zest and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the peas, salt and pepper and stir to coat. Stir in the flour, then add the milk. Increase the heat to high and allow the mixture to thicken, about 3 minutes. Once the mixture is very thick, reduce the heat to low and stir in the cream cheese. Continue to stir until all the chunks are incorporated. Set aside.
  • Drain the pasta. Combine the cooked pasta with the pea mixture, then gently stir in the tuna. Use the starchy cooking water a few tablespoons at a time until the mixture is blended. It will be creamy and thick. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with panko and Parmesan, then bake for 30 minutes. The top will be lightly browned and the edges golden and bubbly. Serve hot.
  • Quick Tips
  • 1. I haven’t bought canned tuna in ages. I forgot that it smells like cat food. Not that I have a cat…but anyway, just pour off the oil sitting on top and place the rest into the pasta, breaking it up lightly with a fork.
  • 2. This recipe can be easily halved. I made 1/2 recipe for myself and my kids when my husband was traveling. Just place it into a smaller baking dish. I used an 8 inch square.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6



6 responses to “Tuna Noodle Casserole”

  1. I grew up where tuna casserole was in rotation, but it was made with canned cream of mushroom soup and topped with crushed ripple potato chips! I was looking for a healthy version as I do get a hankering for it, especially with the cold weather. I’m going to make this tonight – it sounds like it will hit the spot.

  2. Kait Bowdler says:

    This recipe looks good, but I was wondering – why do you use the tuna in oil? I’ve always thought tuna in water was better for you (and tasted better).

    • Alicia says:

      Yes, tuna in water is lower in calories and fat. But I thought the oil-packed kind offered more flavor for this recipe. Since I’d already stripped some of the fat from the dish, I didn’t mind using the oil-packed variety. Try it with tuna in water and let me know what you think!

  3. Followed the recipe, replaced the pasta water with additional milk, however, found it MUCH too dry! Will try to redeem the remainder with sour cream.

    • Alicia Sokol says:

      Sorry to hear it was dry, Barbara! Yes, try to moisten it however you like. I sometimes also use full fat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream and that has some added moisture. Thanks for letting me know!

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