Tuna Noodle Casserole | The Way Casseroles Were Meant to Be

I’ve mentioned before that my mom was more of a baker than a cook.  To her credit, when she did cook, she was adventurous in the kitchen. That meant her tastes would lead us to more exotic foods. Norms for us were dishes like Hungarian…

Tuna Noodle Casserole | The Way Casseroles Were Meant to Be

Tuna-Noodle-Casserole

I’ve mentioned before that my mom was more of a baker than a cook.  To her credit, when she did cook, she was adventurous in the kitchen. That meant her tastes would lead us to more exotic foods. Norms for us were dishes like Hungarian Goulash or Grilled Fish with Lemongrass, and of course, Filipino classics such as Vegetable Lumpia (springrolls – one of her specialties). But that also meant that neighborhood standards such as Macaroni & Cheese and Tuna Noodle Casserole never made it to our table. They were probably considered too boring.

I never ate a single casserole growing up, and I always had images of canned soup concentrate and boxed goods when I considered them. And for my generation, I think that’s just how they were made. It did not help that my first taste of Mac & Cheese when I was a camp counselor one summer was so lackluster (if not gross), I just shied away from these so-called comfort foods for much longer.

So, when I came across a from-scratch version of Tuna Noodle Casserole in Gourmet Magazine, my interest was sparked. It was the personal family recipe of Senior food editor Kemp Miles Minifie. As I read through the recipe, I thought, THIS is how Tuna Noodle Casserole was meant to be!

Tuna-Noodle-Casserole-Ingredients

Other than canned tuna, everything about the recipe calls to mind an earlier era, when casseroles were lovingly assembled with fresh ingredients and as vehicles to stretch the family food budget. The only thing that would make this recipe even more homemade is by making your own egg noodes, but I’m not quite a masochist in the kitchen, at least not yet. I will admit that this is not a quick and easy casserole, but it is well worth the effort and the extra dishwashing afterwards. I’ve adapted the recipe here and there — I prefer using panko bread crumbs to day old bread (I just love the crispy crust, but if you have the hankering to make your own breadcrumbs, by all means, it’s very tasty like that, too); I have significantly increased the tuna content; and I used baby portobello mushrooms for a deeper mushroom flavor (who needs cream of mushroom soup?).

If my mom had a taste of it, I know she would approve.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Adapted from Gourmet, May 2004, via Epicurious. See original recipe here.

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 baby portobello mushrooms, trimmed and diced
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup wine (either white or red is fine)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12-oz and 1 5-oz can tuna in water, drained (17 oz, total)
  • 6 oz dried curly egg noodles (about 3 1/4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 4 6-oz petite au gratin dishes (for individual presentation) or 1 shallow 2 to 3-quart baking dish.

Cook egg noodles according to instructions to al dente, drain, and set aside.

In a heavy skillet, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and saute the onion with a pinch of salt over medium-low heat until translucent.  Increase the heat, add the mushrooms and saute for about two minutes.  Add soy sauce and continue to saute until the mushroom liquid is evaporated.  Add wine and bring to a boil until evaporated.  Set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over low heat and whisk in the flour to create a roux.  Whisk continously for about 3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth whilst whisking and bring to a boil.  Continue to whisk.  Add milk, whisk and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add the reserved mushroom mixture, lemon juice, and salt.  Add drained tuna and noodles into sauce and gently incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss Panko bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss again until the topping is evenly coated.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the individual casseroles. Place au gratin dishes on a baking sheet and put into the oven.  Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Comments

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  1. Tessa

    So, I made this last night and it was SO good, thank you for the recipe! One thing I did add was a drizzle of some truffle oil on top when it was finished baking. Again, thank you for the recipe, so much better than using condensed soup!

    Reply
  2. Candice

    Hi there
    This was most definitely kitchen worthy! I made this last night, and only changed one little detail…I added Dijon mustard to the sauce as I like the tang it gives with tuna. This will be a go to recipe, and it was easy, really fairly quick and OH SO TASTY. By far the best ‘casserole’ I have made in ages. I will make it in a deeper bowl next time as I liked the creaminess, but if your a ‘crunch person’ leave it in the 3Q as it gives a crunch to every bite. Might add a few more mushrooms – what a great base – one that doesn’t ‘need’ tweaking, but can be adapted to taste!
    Thanks for this – what a treat!
    Candice
    girlbroda on foodbuzz

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Candice, thank you so much stopping by to let me know! I’m so pleased that you made it and loved it as much as we do. The addition of Dijon is very interesting, I’ll have to try that next time. And as a fellow mushroom lover, I can totally see adding even more mushrooms – I do love how adaptable the recipe is :) Thanks again for taking the time to let me know how much you enjoyed it, that really makes my day!

      Reply
  3. Christine

    I was just going on a rant about how bland I find American food! Then you have to go and kick it up a notch. I can’t wait to try this recipe some time!

    Reply
    • Liren

      LOL, yeah, American classics can get a bad rap, that’s for sure, but I’m realizing that the era of prepared foods (boxed and otherwise) probably contributed to this in a big way. I hope you do try this recipe, it’ll change your mind for sure!

      Reply
  4. Stacie D

    Thanks for posting — I share your ambivalence about the idea of this recipe — but I am reassured to give it a shot based on your opinion of the final product. I’m curious to see if my toddler will like it. I’ll let you know!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Stacie, Tuna Noodle Casserole is definitely one of those dishes that people either love or hate. It’s all in the preparation, I realize. I really think you’ll like this, and hopefully your toddler does, too!

      Reply
  5. Stephanie

    This looks amazing! I absolutely love your pictures. That picture montage of different ingredients is great – how did you make it?

    Reply
    • Liren

      Thank you, Stephanie! I create my photo collages in Photoshop, using photo masks/layers…carryover from my digital scrapbooking (since I started this blog I haven’t had time to take care of the kids’ scrapbooks, that reminds me!).

      Reply
  6. Dori

    Wow that looks amazing, comfort food at its best! Since I cook just for myself in my apartment, do you think it would work to freeze 3 of the individual dishes and bake them at a later time? Could I just pop them in the over frozen or would I have to thaw them first?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Thank you Dori! I’m glad you stopped by. You can certainly freeze the three remaining dishes and bake them at a later time. I would just cover them very well, then pop them into the oven straight from the freezer. I’m guessing that if you were to thaw it out first, you run the risk of the topping getting soggy. Just make sure you account for a longer baking time. The other option would be to half the recipe! Good luck, and I hope you enjoy making and eating it!

      Reply
  7. Spicy Green Mango

    Liren, thanks for the hearty congrats! You are always so sweet and I honestly do not know how you manage a family (with children) and yet always have time to leave a comment on my blog (while also commenting on your own). I just wanted to let you know that it brings a smile to my face to know that I have a great food blogger who appreciates my work and takes a moment out of her busy day to acknowledge that. But, I also believe that great things come to people like you and reciprocity is wonderful. So, in regards to your lovely casserole, I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this recipe b/c like you, casserole used to remind me of boxed dinners. I think you’re making me a convert with your lovely photos. Keep it up!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Thank you so much for your wonderful message! I always feel compelled to let people know when I appreciate what they do — and like you, I know how good it feels to receive a comment on a post or recipe that you work so hard on. You have some wonderful talents up your sleeve and it is always exciting to see what you will come up with next! And that is what makes for a good blog!

      Now if I can help the much disdained Tuna Noodle Casserole regain a little respect, then I’ll feel like this was worth it :) Hope you try it one day and like it!

      Reply
  8. Jenn

    I don’t think I’ve ever had tuna casserole… *thinks*. Nope, I’ve never had tuna casserole before. I’ve also never had meatloaf. I did grow up in an Asian household, but it wasn’t typical neither.

    Denise made tuna. You’re making tuna. This is a sign from something something. ~ Jenn, you must make a tuna dish. YES MASTER *zombie face*. Just jokes!!! But I am interested in trying to cook with canned tuna. Never have before :)

    Reply
    • Liren

      Wait, you’ve never had meatloaf? Oh my dear, that will be your next task. But first, I think you should try this! Maybe a half recipe, for starters (just in case — though I think you’ll really like it!). The blogs are demanding it…it’s time to cook with tuna, Jenn :)

      Reply
  9. Debi (Table Talk)

    For most people Tuna Noodle Casserole conjures unpleasant memories at the dinner table, trying to make it look like you had eaten something.
    A recipe like this will help erase those forgotten dinners~ sounds delicious!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Debi, I do hope this gives the Tuna Noodle Casserole the respect it deserves. It really is a wonderful recipe.

      Reply
  10. norma

    I never had a caserole in my life until my son married. Poor thing it was made out of tuna and it was a disaster. Being a good mom-in-law I ate in silence and suffered all night. She remembers this story as if it was yesterday (18 years). I will show her yours which looks great and we can reminisce and make it for the grandkids. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Oh what a story, Norma! Your daughter in law must have felt horrified (I know I was rather nervous the first time I cooked for my inlaws!)…poor thing. She’ll be such a good sport if you can laugh over it now after all those years!

      Reply
  11. Ohsuzanna

    I’ve made this recipe from Gourmet many times. It is just wonderful – I love that it doesn’t include any canned soups.
    Very tasty!

    Reply
    • Liren

      I’m glad you agree! It’s so nice to get that cream of mushroom flavor, without the cream of mushroom can :)

      Reply
  12. Roti n Rice

    I am with you where mac and cheese is concern. I do like casseroles though, not just because I live here in MN, but there is something comforting about it. Actually, I do have a pack of the curly noodles and was going to make this but somehow got side tracked. Looking at your delicious casserole gives me an incentive to cook it soon :)

    Reply
    • Liren

      I am still pretty particular with mac and cheese, there are so many blah versions out there. And I have a whole new respect for the casserole. My eyes really were opened up to their possibilities when I lived in the midwest for a short while!

      Reply
  13. SMITH BITES

    The Professor will love this! His mom was the Queen of Casseroles and Tuna Noodle casserole is one of his favs! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Oh boy, this will go up against the Queen of Casseroles? I think this recipe is up to the challenge!

      Reply
  14. Josie

    So this is officially the first time I have ever wanted to run out to the store to buy ingredients to make tuna noodle casserole! You may be able to convert me into liking one.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Wow, if I can inspire someone to want to make tuna noodle casserole, then I’m just so pleased. But if I can convert you, even better. Hope you make it, let me know the verdict.

      Reply
  15. Divina

    Your tuna casserole is fantastic. It’s definitely a gourmet casserole. The pictures are heavenly.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Thank you Divina! This casserole is definitely a little more high maintenance, but it’s worth it :)

      Reply
    • Liren

      I know, there’s nothing exciting about canned tuna or casserole, but this really is so yummy. Hubby today thought it tasted better as leftovers, actually!

      Reply
    • Liren

      I hope you do make it! It’s definitely so different from the first tuna casserole I ever had (I think it was in college, actually).

      Reply
  16. Stella

    Hey Liren, this is the prettiest tuna casserole I’ve seen in a while. I love tuna casserole but I never think of it being pretty. Cauldron Boy just saw this too, so now he’s going to expect it…

    Reply
    • Liren

      Stella, thank you. Never thought a casserole was pretty, but I’m glad you think this one is! Hope your little Cauldron Boy likes it!

      Reply
    • Liren

      Thanks, Damion! Yeah, I think for me it’s the roux that won me over.

      Reply
  17. [email protected] Noodle

    My mom wasn’t a big casserole-maker either but that didn’t stop me from being a one-dish wonder eater! In fact, I fit in quite nicely when we moved to Minnesota – home of the ‘hotdish’ (aka casserole). That first photo looks phenomenally delicious!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Oh, you certainly *do* live in home of the hotdish! I think the first time I actually liked a true Midwestern casserole was when I was in Chicago – one of my grad school friends made THE BEST casserole that had tater tots in it. We used to always be her to make it whenever we had our Thursday dinners! I had never heard of the term hotdish, until then. And that’s when I had a new appreciation for this kind of comfort food!

      Reply
    • Liren

      I totally understand — I’m a recent convert, and this recipe is what did it for me!

      Reply
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