This tuna noodle casserole is a timeless blend of creamy pasta, savory tuna, and a crispy topping that’s baked to perfection. Ideal for weeknight dinners!
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Table of Contents
- About Tuna Noodle Casserole
- What’s in tuna noodle casserole?
- Should you shred your own cheese?
- How to fix a dry casserole
- Can you make this in advance?
- How long is tuna casserole good for?
- Can you freeze it?
- Tips for reheating
- What else can you add?
- What to serve with tuna noodle casserole
- Notes & tips for tuna noodle casserole
- More comforting casserole recipes
- More tasty recipes with seafood
- How to make tuna noodle casserole
- Recipe Details
About Tuna Noodle Casserole
When it comes to comforting, hearty dishes that evoke nostalgia, nothing beats a classic, easy, and delicious tuna noodle casserole. This dish, with its blend of creamy sauce, flavorful tuna, and crispy breadcrumb topping, is a timeless classic that has won the hearts of many – and for good reason. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also versatile and easy to customize to your tastes, making this copycat homemade tuna helper a staple in any home cook’s arsenal for an easy, quick dinner.
What’s in tuna noodle casserole?
In order to whip up this tried-and-true dish full of foodie comfort, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Egg noodles – Made of eggs and flour, these sturdy and bouncy noodles are perfect for casserole dishes because they maintain their shape, hold lots of sauce, and ensure the casserole remains loose and “airy” so that it’s easy to scoop up and serve.
- Tuna – The star of the show! Feel free to use whatever type of pre-cooked tuna that you’d like; just make sure it’s thoroughly drained before use.
- White onion, petite peas, and cremini mushrooms – Delicious vegetables for adding flavor. You can omit (or replace with something else) the peas or mushrooms if you’d like.
- Salted butter, all-purpose flour, chicken broth, cooking sherry, milk, salt, and pepper – For the creamy sauce base. The sherry really brightens up the sauce and accents the cheeses, but it’s also totally optional.
- Cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese – Delicious cheeses that are added either to the sauce itself or sprinkled on top of the assembled casserole. Feel free to use whatever type of cheddar you’d like (mild, medium, or sharp.)
- Panko breadcrumbs – For creating a deliciously crunchy top on the casserole. And like many of the ingredients in this recipe, go ahead and experiment with your favorite type or flavor of breadcrumb. I tend to use plain or Italian.
Should you shred your own cheese?
Using pre-shredded cheese is extremely convenient, but it often contains some preservatives (such as potato starch) that help keep the shredded cheese separated in the bag. And while this is great for grabbing a quick pinch of cheese, it will also cause the melted cheese to appear lumpy or harden faster than it normally should.
So if you’re a cheese lover like me and want the creamiest experience possible for your casserole, I highly recommend shredding a block of cheddar and Parmesan. It’s a bit more work, but the improved consistency is worth the effort.
How to fix a dry casserole
If you notice the sauce is too thick while preparing the casserole, feel free to add more chicken broth (1-2 tablespoons at a time) until it reaches your desired consistency. You can use milk for this, too, but since milk is thicker, you’d likely need to add a higher ratio of it than the chicken broth to thin out the sauce.
If you feel the casserole is too thick after it’s been baked, you can add a single-sized portion of it to a bowl, add a tablespoon of chicken broth (or milk), and then mix well. If the casserole is still hot, it should absorb the liquid. If not, cover the bowl with a paper towel and try microwaving it for 15-30 seconds, then stir it again. Repeat this step until the serving has the consistency you’d like.
Can you make this in advance?
Certainly! This casserole is great to whip up ahead of time and bake later.
To do this, follow the recipe instructions until the coated pasta has been added to the baking dish. For now, hold off on topping the casserole with cheese and breadcrumbs. Cover the dish and store it in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
When ready to bake, allow the casserole to come to room temperature on the counter for 30 minutes, add the Parmesan cheese and breadcrumb toppings, and then bake as directed.
How long is tuna casserole good for?
Once prepared and cooled, this casserole can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three to five days.
Can you freeze it?
Yes! This dish is great for freezing, both before and after baking. And regardless of when you freeze it, the instructions are the same:
- Prepare the full casserole up to just before baking (including the Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs on top) OR allow the baked casserole to cool completely.
- Either secure a lid on the casserole dish or wrap the top with aluminum foil.
- Store in the freezer for up to three months.
Tips for reheating
Reheating tuna noodle casserole can be a breeze if done correctly. Ensuring that the dish remains moist and flavorful while avoiding overcooking is essential. To do this, follow these instructions:
- Oven method (preferred):
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- If not already in one, transfer casserole leftovers to an oven-safe dish.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil to retain moisture and prevent the top from burning.
- Reheat for about 20-25 minutes or until the center is warm. If the casserole has been refrigerated, it might need two or three more minutes.
- For a crispy top, remove the foil in the last 5-10 minutes of baking.
- Microwave method:
- Portion out the desired serving size to ensure even reheating.
- Place in a microwave-safe dish and cover with a microwave-safe lid or cover with a paper towel. Leave a small corner open to vent.
- Reheat on medium power for 2-3 minutes, checking in between to prevent overcooking.
- Stir halfway through to ensure even heating.
TIP: If the casserole ever seems too dry, add a tablespoon or two of chicken broth to give it back some moisture. Be sure to stir it well both before and after reheating.
What else can you add?
This casserole includes two vegetables – mushrooms and peas – but feel free to omit one (or both!) of these options if you’d like. You can also substitute them for an equal portion of other vegetables like carrots, corn, broccoli, bell peppers, or leafy greens like spinach.
And if tuna is not your thing (even if it’s just for a day), you can also substitute the canned tuna for canned or cooked chicken.
What to serve with tuna noodle casserole
Because casserole dishes like this are designed to be one-stop meals on their own, you can keep the side options simple, such as:
- Fresh green salads with mild or tangy dressing.
- Steamed or roasted vegetables like brown sugar glazed carrots. succotash, or smashed potatoes.
- Savory bread like garlic bread, soda bread, or buttermilk cornbread.
Notes & tips for tuna noodle casserole
- With casseroles like these, I like to cook the pasta just shy of al dente, shaving off 1-4 minutes of the cooking time printed on the packaging. The pasta will continue to cook and absorb moisture while baking in the oven, so doing this will help avoid soggy pasta.
- When you’re finishing up assembling the casserole, add a few extra squares of butter (or a spritz of cooking spray) to help brown and golden the breadcrumbs.
More comforting casserole recipes
More tasty recipes with seafood
How to make tuna noodle casserole
This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.
Step 1 – First things first, grab a big saucepan and cook those egg noodles, but here’s the trick: shave off a minute or two from what the package says so that they’re just shy of al dente. Once they’re done, give them a good drain and set them aside.
Step 3 – Grab a skillet, and over medium heat, let that butter melt into golden goodness. Toss in the white onions and let them cook until they’re soft and fragrant – about 3 minutes should do the trick.
Step 4 – Time to add some body to this sauce! Gently whisk in the flour. Keep that wrist action going until the flour soaks up the butter and dons a tan shade.
Step 5 – While still whisking, add a splash of chicken broth. Let the flour grab onto it. Repeat this step, adding broth a little at a time until it’s all mixed in.
Step 6 – Keep up with the whisking and introduce the milk. Stir it up and wait for that gentle simmer. Now, toss in the sherry, mushrooms, peas, and the classics – salt & pepper. Stir and let it bubble softly until it’s thick and luscious, say about 7-9 minutes.
Step 7 – Gently fold in that flavorful drained tuna and let it mingle for a minute.
Step 8 – Pull the skillet off the heat and fold in the cheddar cheese, letting it melt into the sauce, and then introduce those noodles. Mix it up until every strand is coated in that creamy delight.
Step 9 – Pour that dreamy noodle mixture into the prepared baking dish, leveling it out. For that finishing touch, sprinkle Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs on top. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, you could also dot the top with butter squares or give it a light spray to encourage a crispy top.
Step 10 – Bake!
Step 11 – Serve and enjoy!
Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 6 ounces egg noodles
- 3 tablespoons salted butter, plus more for baking
- 1 cup minced white onion
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons cooking sherry, optional
- 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (optional)
- 1 cup petite peas, thawed
- 1 pinch salt, to taste
- 1 pinch black pepper, to taste
- 10 ounces tuna, drained
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, sharp or mild (can use up to 2 cups)
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, seasoning of your choice
- In a large saucepan, cook egg noodles per package instructions, reducing cook time by 1 minute for quick cooking pasta (8-10 minutes) or by up to 4 minutes for longer cooking pasta (15-20 minutes). Drain pasta thoroughly and set aside.6 ounces egg noodles
- In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add white onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 3 minutes.3 tablespoons salted butter, 1 cup minced white onion
- Whisk in flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until flour has absorbed butter and has turned a tan color, about 2-4 minutes.3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Continuing to whisk, pour in a little bit of the chicken broth and allow the flour to absorb it. Once absorbed, pour in a little bit more chicken broth and repeat the process. Continue until all of the chicken broth has been added.1 3/4 cups chicken broth
- Still continuing to whisk, pour in milk. Mix until combined, then bring to a simmer.1 cup milk
- Add the sherry, mushrooms, peas, salt, and pepper, then stir well. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, roughly 7-9 minutes.2 tablespoons cooking sherry, 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, 1 cup petite peas, 1 pinch salt, 1 pinch black pepper
- Add drained tuna to skillet then cook and stir for another minute.10 ounces tuna
- Remove skillet from heat. Add cheddar cheese and mix thoroughly until melted. Add noodles to sauce and toss to coat.1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Transfer sauce-coated noodles into prepared baking dish and spread out into an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. If desired, arrange a few thin squares of salted butter along the top (or lightly spray top with more cooking spray.)1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, 3 tablespoons salted butter
- Bake tuna noodle casserole, uncovered, for 25 minutes. If you prefer a crispier top, increase oven to broil and place dish on top rack for 1-2 minutes.
- Allow tuna noodle casserole to cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.