My Tuna Casserole Recipe is pure, classic comfort food. Delicious tuna, noodles and peas in a cheesy, creamy homemade sauce with a crunchy cracker crumb topping.
Tuna casserole is one of those dishes that you just can’t help but love. It’s the ultimate comfort food from my childhood. I remember spending summers at my grandma’s and my aunt always making a delicious pan of tuna noodle casserole. It takes me back to those day and I have such fond memories.
This Tuna Casserole Recipe is a version of hers, but instead of canned cream soup I make my own base – it tastes so much better and is better for you too.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A TUNA CASSEROLE?
As with any flavorful recipe, this tuna casserole starts with sauteing some onions. This is probably my favorite step in any recipe because the smell is so amazing, my kids always come running asking what smells so good. Then are disappointed when I say “onions.” Ha!
- Once the onions are nice and soft, it’s time to make a roux. A roux is a simple base to thicken milk or cream to make for a white sauce (or bechamel if you’re feeling fancy). Flour is added to the onions and cooked until golden, then milk is whisked in. As the milk simmers, it will thicken and become a sauce which is the base for this tuna casserole. It’s also the replacement for the canned cream soup that these types of casseroles are often made with. We like it cheesy, so add some cheddar and Parmesan to turn this white sauce into a nice creamy cheese sauce.
- Don’t forget to boil the noodles while you’re making the cream sauce. Use whatever small noodles you have on hand – rotini, farfalle or even egg noodles. To save time, the peas are added to the noodles towards the end of their cooking time.
- Once the sauce is creamy and thick and the noodles and peas are cooked, add everything to the sauce and stir it up so everything is nicely blended. Pour it all into a large casserole dish (aff), or, if you like you can bake it right in the same skillet you made the sauce in as long as it’s oven proof. Saving a few dishes from the wash is always a benefit!
How long do you cook a Tuna Casserole?
The crunchy cracker topping is optional – you can save a few calories by leaving it off – but I think it’s adds just the right finishing crunch. Bake your tuna casserole uncovered at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. The sauce should be nice and bubbly and the cracker topping a golden brown. If you want it to brown a little more you can always turn on the broiler and give it a few extra minutes there.
Can you freeze leftover Tuna Casserole?
Yes, you can! Let the casserole cool completely, then cover it in the baking pan with foil and place it in the freezer. Once it’s fully frozen, remove the tuna casserole from the pan and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and/or foil. Place it in a zip top bag and back into the freezer it goes.
Do I have to use peas in my Tuna Noodle Casserole?
It always cracks me up when people ask this question, because I am not a fan of peas either! You are free to customize with any veggies you like! Broccoli, carrots, etc. would taste great in this recipe. I would recommend at least par-cooking the broccoli, or fully cooking the carrots before adding them. You might even try sauteing carrots and celery with the onion at the beginning of the recipe. I think that would be an excellent addition!
Want more delicious casserole recipes? Try these!
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- ½ of a medium-sized onion diced (½ cup)
- 8 ounces small pasta like Rotini or farfalle, or egg noodles
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 5-ounce cans water-packed tuna drained
- 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers or panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Fresh minced parsley
In a large, deep, oven-safe skillet or saute pan (5-quart), melt butter, then add diced onion. Cook until onion is translucent and soft; about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in flour and garlic powder and cook for a couple of minutes or until flour is golden in color. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir often until thickened; 3-4 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in cheeses until melted. *Tip - if the sauce isn't creamy enough for you, add a few ounces of cream cheese; stir in until melted and combined.
Meanwhile, boil water in a medium-sized pot and cook the pasta according to package directions. Add peas during the last minute or so. Drain and set aside.
To the skillet, stir in pasta, peas and tuna. Stir in sour cream. (If you do not have an oven safe saute pan, transfer the mixture to a greased 11x7-inch baking dish).
Combine crushed crackers with ½ cup grated parmesan and sprinkle on top of the casserole.
Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. For additional browning, switch to broil during the last 5 minutes.
Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh minced parsley.