As I’ve gotten older my palate has become more adventurous, preferring flavors that surprise and excite my tongue. But I grew up in the midwest in the ’80s when creamy casseroles were a dinnertime staple, so I still have a soft spot for classic dishes like this Tuna Noodle Casserole. It might not be as flashy as many of my other creations, but it’s filling, creamy, and totally comforting! I did update this classic a bit to fit my current cooking style by making this tuna noodle casserole from scratch, with no canned condensed soup.
What is Tuna Noodle Casserole?
This classic casserole dish starts with a creamy mushroom sauce combined with delicate egg noodles, peas, and tuna, then topped with a buttery breadcrumb, cracker, or potato chip topping. The classic version of tuna noodle casserole uses a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup for the sauce, but in the recipe below I’ve whipped up a homemade creamy mushroom sauce instead. It does take a little more time, but it’s totally worth it, IMHO!
Make it Cheesy
One of the most popular variations of this classic casserole is to add cheddar cheese. So if you like your tuna noodle casserole extra cheesy, feel free to stir in a cup of shredded cheddar when combining the sauce, pasta, and tuna. It will get nice and melty as the casserole bakes! Parmesan is another great option.
What to Serve with Tuna Noodle Casserole
This casserole can be a bit on the heavy side, especially if you prefer to make the cheesy version, so I like to pair it with a really light and simple side salad. The delicate flavor and texture of the salad perfectly balance the creamy tuna casserole and it helps you get a little more green on that plate. Plus, it only takes five minutes to make! A simple Three Bean Salad might also be nice.
How to Make Tuna Noodle Casserole – Step by Step Photos
Start by finely dicing one yellow onion. Add it to a skillet with one tablespoon of butter and sauté over medium until the onions are soft.
While the onions are sautéing, slice 8oz. of mushrooms. Add the mushrooms, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper to the skillet with the onions and continue to sauté until they are tender. Transfer the sautéed vegetables to a clean bowl.
Add two more tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour to the skillet. Continue to cook over medium, whisking the butter and flour together as the butter melts. Continue to cook and whisk for about one minute after the butter and flour mixture begins to bubble and foam. The butter and flour mixture helps thicken the sauce.
Add 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of vegetable broth, and 4oz. cream cheese (cut into chunks) to the skillet. Continue to cook and whisk these ingredients together over medium heat until the cream cheese has fully melted and the sauce begins to simmer.
Add the cooked onions and mushrooms and ½ cup frozen peas to the creamy sauce. Stir to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper (I added another ½ tsp salt and a pinch of pepper). Set the sauce aside.
Begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then add 8oz. wide egg noodles. Boil for about 7 minutes, or just until tender. Drain the noodles in a colander.
While the pasta is boiling, mix together the Parmesan breadcrumb topping. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a small bowl, then stir in 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan.
Finally, combine the creamy mushrooms sauce, cooked and drained egg noodles, and one 12oz. can of tuna (drained). If you wanted to add cheddar, this is the point where I’d stir it into the mix.
Transfer the casserole mixture to a 3-quart casserole dish and top with the Parmesan breadcrumb topping.
Bake the casserole for about 25 minutes in the preheated 350ºF oven, or until heated through and golden brown on top.
Serve hot and enjoy the creamy goodness!