I admit: I usually dislike tuna noodle casserole that is baked in an oven. Over the decades I’ve worked out an alternative that I do like, requiring no baking and almost no cooking of the tuna. It’s one of my simplest recipes (uses only one pot!) and when I’m in a rush, I can make it in just under 20 minutes. It uses ingredients I can easily keep stocked at home. It’s a good comfort food for a cold, wintery evening. And best of all, my kids have loved it since they were about 8 or 9 years old.
After you’ve tried this recipe once, feel free to fiddle with the ingredients and amounts to fine-tune it to your satisfaction. For example, some people add more cheese, or extra peas.
This recipe makes a meal for four to five people—or three, if they are particularly hungry.
- 8 ounces uncooked noodles, e.g., rotelle, large shells, cavatappi
- 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
- Milk—to fill the soup can ¾ of the way
- 2 cans albacore tuna, preferably in water
- 1 ½ cups frozen peas, or more
- ½ cup frozen or fresh chopped spinach (optional)
- 4-6 ounces sharp cheddar, or other variety, cut into small cubes or shredded
- 4 slices white or whole wheat bread, toasted fairly dark, then cut into small squares
- Cook the noodles until al dente. As the noodles are cooking, gather and prepare all the other ingredients. (Make the toast, cut up the cheese.)
- Drain the noodles and return them to the pot.
- Add the condensed mushroom soup. Fill the empty soup can 3-quarters with milk and add that, mixing it in with the condensed soup.
- Add the tuna—if the tuna is in oil, drain the cans, but if it’s tuna in water, don’t bother draining it; the broth will add good flavor. Break up the tuna into chunks.
- Add the peas and (optionally) the spinach.
- Heat up the mixture until it just begins to bubble, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom of the pot from scorching. If it seems too dry, add a bit more milk.
- Last, add the cubed cheese and the cut-up toast. Mix it well. Let the toast absorb excess liquid. Heat it all up for about half a minute, and you’re ready to dig in!
Notes: Over the years I’ve tried every variation I could think of. You might like whole wheat bread instead of white bread, or frozen broccoli instead of peas and spinach. I admit I was not pleased when I tried, at various times, fried mushrooms, pearl onions, asparagus, tomato, cauliflower, beans, or potato chips. I much prefer albacore over light tuna.
You can control how moist or dry the final result is by adjusting how much milk you add. Keep in mind that the toast will sop up excess milk. The toast, by the way, adds a flavor that compensates for the lack of oven baking.
For quicker heating, thaw or microwave the frozen vegetables before adding them to the pot. Or you can add them to the noodles as they finish cooking, and drain them together.
This recipe perfectly fills a 3-quart pot. If you want to make a larger batch, you will need a larger pot or dutch oven.
Condensed cream of mushroom soup is often available with a good hechsher under various supermarket house brands. For example, ShopRite sells it under its “Bowl & Basket” product line, with an OU. Stop & Shop, Lidl and Aldi also have kosher varieties. In a pinch you can use any type of mushroom soup, such as Imagine brand’s Portobello Mushroom soup, which is wonderful on its own—but in this casserole, I actually prefer the pedestrian condensed soup.
I find that the sharper the cheddar, the better. The reason I add cubed cheese near the end is that I like the occasional burst of flavor when I come across a little piece of cheese that has stayed intact instead of mixing in. If you’re not as much of a cheese fanatic as I am, feel free to go with a shredded variety.
This recipe is even more flavorful the next day, cold or warmed up. Pack it in a thermos for a great school lunch for your kids.