Full disclosure: This is not the easiest tuna noodle casserole recipe out there. And that’s because we nixed canned soup in favor of a homemade take on cream of mushroom soup that’s enriched not with whole milk, but with heavy cream—we promise the minimal extra effort is worth it. There’s no canned tuna, either. Instead, we call for jars of olive-oil-packed tuna, which ensures the fish stays moist and tender while the casserole is baked in the oven. Mushy macaroni? That’s gone, too, in favor of perfectly cooked egg noodles. All in all, it’s a major upgrade while remaining squarely in the realm of comfort food.
Texture is king in a tuna casserole. So, don’t follow the pasta’s package directions. Undercooking the noodles ensures the final dish will still retain some bite. As they cool, you’ll sauté diced vegetables in melted butter and make a quick roux to serve as the base for the creamy sauce that holds everything together. For the topping, we nixed ho-hum breadcrumbs for salty, crispy potato chips. But these are not crushed potato chips; instead, we tuck whole chips upright into the mix to give this family favorite a wonderfully crunchy element that turns golden brown, not soggy-sad.
With a prep time of about 45 minutes, this hearty main dish is an ambitious but achievable weeknight dinner, but it’s also a great thing to make on Sunday night so you can enjoy leftovers in the coming days. Use the cook time to make an old-school Italian salad to serve alongside.
Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a 13x9" baking dish with 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter.
Cook 12 oz. dried curly egg noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain pasta; let cool.
Melt 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 large onion, finely chopped, and 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped; cook, stirring, until soft but not brown, 8–10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add 10 oz. mushrooms (such as crimini, shiitake, and/or button mushrooms), chopped. Cook, tossing occasionally, until most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated, 4–6 minutes. Add ¼ cup white wine and reduce until skillet is almost dry, about 2 minutes; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce and 2 tsp. finely chopped thyme.
Melt remaining 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Whisk in ¼ cup (31 g) all-purpose flour and cook until roux is golden and looks shiny and smooth, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, add 2½ cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 cup heavy cream, 6 oz. white cheddar, grated, and 2 tsp. hot sauce; cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
Gently fold mushroom mixture, cream mixture, cooked noodles, and two 6-oz. jars oil-packed tuna, drained, broken into small pieces, in a large bowl; taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Transfer tuna mixture to prepared baking dish. Press 2 cups potato chips into casserole so they stand upright. Bake casserole until bubbly around the edges and chips begin to brown, 15–20 minutes. Zest one quarter of 1 lemon over casserole. Let sit 5 minutes, then top with ½ cup dill, coarsely chopped, and 2 Tbsp. finely chopped chives.
Editor’s note: This recipe was originally published in February 2016 as part of BA’s Best, a collection of our essential recipes. Head this way for more of our best casserole recipes →
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I love this recipe! I also find it freezes quite well which is nice considering how much work it is! This time when I make it I am going to try cooking the mushrooms & veggies the night before, then just making the pasta and roux the night of eating it. We'll see how it goes it might save some mess and time!
Made this twice so far and everyone loves it. Question for the group though - I’d like to make this for someone who can’t eat tuna. Would canned chicken be a good substitute? Would you add any other seasonings? Thanks!
This is definitely a weekend dinner. Don't try to make this on a wednesday after the gym because you will be eating at 9 pm. That being said, it was the best tuna casserole I've ever had. Took some liberties with the hot sauce but followed the rest to the T. Would make again if I was feeling extra.
For the amount of effort put in I found this disappointing and won't make it again. It didn't taste bad, it was just lack luster. I prefer Melissa Clark's IP version tbh.
LOVE. This was my first time making a tuna casserole and will definitely be using this recipe again and maybe add peas or kale like another reviewer mentioned. I didn’t have white wine, so I substituted a mix of 2 tbsp chicken broth & 2 tbsp white wine vinegar. So delicious.
I halve this recipe as it's two of us for dinner. Delicious as is but also a great base for other variations. My favorite is kale and hot pepper: 1. Omitted the leeks as I never have them on hand. Added a jalapeño or Serrano in with the onion and then 3-4 cloves of garlic for about a minute once the onion is softened. 2. Omitted the mushrooms and used kale instead. Used the wine to help wilt the kale. Added red pepper flake in with the thyme. 3. Upped the amount of cheddar by about one fourth. 4. Skipped the dill.
SO GOOD! First tuna casserole I ever made and it was awesome. Pretty easy too. I ended up using an uninteresting Sauvignon Blanc, a basic mild yellow cheddar, chunk lite tuna packed in water, and basic ruffled potato chips. If I’d upped the quality of the ingredients and topped it with the chives and lemon zest too, it would have been even tastier. I served mine with cold haricot verts in lemon dill dressing. Yum!
All I omitted was the white wine. Made the recipe exactly, even tracked down some fancy Italian tuna in jars. Honestly there wasn't much difference between that and the cheap tuna in oil. This casserole was very tasty and it was fun to make. It even has potato chips in it!
Really tasty upgrade to the classic! Didn't have leeks, chips, or egg noodles and not a fan of dill, otherwise I included all the ingredients and did a top of the stove version using fusilli. I added red pepper for color and a nod to the original and chopped hard-boiled egg and parmigiana reggianno when serving. As an old-fashioned country cook who grew up without a dishwasher and still doesn't have one (not by choice!) in my SF apartment, I always look to minimize dirty pots and pans. So, I prepared everything, except the pasta and hard-boiled eggs of course, in a cast iron skillet which could have gone into the oven to finish. Adding flour to the browned vegetables and letting it cook a couple minutes before adding the stock and milk/cream is classic. Seriously, this is a casserole where all the flavors will blend. I don't think it's really necessary to cook in stages much less dirty a mixing bowl to combine all the ingredients just to dump into a casserole dish!
Loved this! I simplified a little. Cooked onions and mushrooms according to recipe. Added butter and then flour and cooked a bit. Added broth and then did the rest according to recipe. Left out the thyme, leeks, and chives and it was still delicious!! Also added in a bag of thawed and drained frozen spinach! I think it is a super versatile recipe!
Definitely worth the long ingredient list and dirtiying every nest bowl I own, roux is not as intimidating as I imagined. Will make again
Was very yummy. Will make it again.