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Published March 25, 2022. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
You will be blown away at the flavor of this incredible homemade tuna noodle casserole recipe using fresh ahi. This dish will instantly become a new family favorite once they try it.
I absolutely love to eat seafood as it’s such a light delicious protein option. If you’re looking to expand your horizon in the seafood department, then for sure try my Honey-Garlic Salmon or Fish-Fry recipe.
Tuna casserole is a simple dish consisting of a creamy mushroom sauce, noodles, peas, and tuna that are combined and baked with a cheesy breadcrumb topping. It can be easily customized and in fact, can be taken from its original recipe to a modernized fresh version like this one.
According to tastecooking.com, Tuna casserole is said to have been created in the state of Washington in the 1930s. There was a recipe in Sunset Magazine that featured a recipe called, “Noodles and Tuna Fish en Casserole.” It didn’t become popularized in America until the 1950s and has been on dinner tables ever since. However, I decided to take the early recipe to the next level.
Ingredients You’ll Need to Make It
- Tuna – Use fresh tuna for this recipe. See notes on options.
- Noodles – I prefer to use a grown-up noodle like cavatappi or fusilli.
- Oil – Any olive oil or neutral flavored oil will work.
- Onions – I like to use shallots here, but you can use yellow, white, red, or sweet onions.
- Garlic – 2 finely minced garlic cloves are needed and will help greatly improve the flavor of the sauce.
- Mushrooms – I used a combination of buttons, baby bellas, and portobello’s, but all fresh wild mushrooms are good to use in this recipe.
- Wine – A good white wine like chardonnay, pinot grigio, or sauvignon blanc will work great. This is optional and if wine cannot be consumed, simply skip the procedure.
- Flour – You will need all-purpose flour to help make a roux.
- Milk – Use whole milk as it will provide the most fat and flavor.
- Herbs – Fresh thyme and flat leaf parsley is used in this dish.
- Breadcrumbs – Any plain breadcrumbs will work.
- Butter – Always unsalted butter and this is used to help with the sauce.
- Cheese – I like to use aged yellow and white cheddars, but you can get creative by using gouda, parmesan, gruyere, or another favorite. Avoid blue cheese, goat cheese, or feta cheese.
- Lemon – This will help add some acid to the flavor of the tuna.
How to Make Tuna Noodle Casserole from Scratch
Follow these step-by-step instructions for making this amazing homemade tuna noodle casserole recipe from scratch:
In a large rondeau pot with olive oil over high heat caramelize the mushrooms until well browned, which takes about 7-8 minutes.
Next, turn the heat down to medium and scrape the mushrooms to one side of the pan add butter, shallots, garlic, and celery to the other side of the pan and cook until lightly browned and starting to tenderize, which takes about 2 to 3 minutes.
Mix everything together and then deglaze with white wine and cook until the liquid is almost gone.
Stir in the flour to create a roux and then pour in the milk and turn to high heat to activate the roux to help thicken up the sauce.
Finish the sauce with thyme, salt, and pepper and mix until combined. Set aside and keep warm.
In a frying pan add some olive oil over high heat and sear a piece of seasoned fresh tuna for 3-4 minutes per side or until very browned on both sides and almost cooked throughout.
Set the tuna aside on a cutting board, squeeze on some lemon juice and then chop the tuna into large 1” chunks. Set aside.
Add 1 pound of cooked noodles to the rondeau pot with the mushroom sauce and then add in the cooked tuna and 1 cup of peas and mix until combined.
Transfer the mixture to a 13×9 casserole dish and flatten it out.
Sprinkle on shredded cheese and then top off with breadcrumbs and bake in the oven at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked. Suppose you like your tuna noodle casserole extra creamy, my recommendation is to place it under the broiler for 4 to 7 minutes or just until the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted and the cheese is melted, instead of baking it in the oven. This procedure will allow for a creamy casserole with a slightly toasted top.
Optionally garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: You can make this recipe up to 30 minutes ahead of time, just keep it warm covered in the oven at 200°.
How to Store: Cover and store it in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Cover and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating and serving.
How to Reheat: Add the desired amount to a saucepan and cover with foil. Bake in the oven at 350° for 8-12 minutes or until hot.
chef notes + tips
- If fresh tuna is not available, you can use frozen tuna that has been thawed.
- Use 1 pound of canned drained tuna if frozen or fresh is not an option.
- Other noodle options are farfalle, penne, or macaroni.
- Tuna Casserole almost always gets dried out if there is not enough sauce. Feel free to add a cup of the hot leftover pasta water from cooking the noodles to help loosen up and moisten.
- You can just use yellow or just white cheddar cheese for this recipe.
More Fish Recipes
Homemade Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe from Scratch
For the Casserole
- 5 tablespoons oil
- 4 cups sliced mushrooms, buttons, baby bellas, and portabella mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 peeled and small diced shallot
- 2 finely minced garlic
- 2 small diced ribs of celery
- ½ cup white wine
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 pound cavatappi or fusilli pasta
- 1 pound fresh tuna fillet
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 cup of peas
- 1 cup shredded yellow cheddar
- 1 cup shredded white cheddar
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Breadcrumb Topping
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup unsalted melted butter
- ¼ cup shredded yellow cheddar
- ¼ cup shredded white cheddar
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- In a large rondeau pot add 3 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat and add the mushrooms to caramelize or well browned, which takes about 7-8 minutes stirring every 2 minutes or so.
- Next, turn the heat down to medium and scrap the mushrooms to one side of the pan add 1 tablespoon of butter, shallots, garlic, and celery to the other side of the pan and sauté until lightly browned and starting to tenderize, which takes about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Mix everything together and then deglaze with white wine and cook until the liquid is almost gone, which takes about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Stir in the flour completely with the vegetables to create a roux and then pour in the milk and turn to high heat to activate the roux to help thicken up the sauce.
- Once the sauce is thickened, which will almost immediately happen once it begins to boil, finish it with thyme, salt, and pepper and mix until combined. Turn the heat off and set aside.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water according to its instructions. Drain and run cold water over the noodles until cool and then set aside.
- Season the tuna on both sides with salt and pepper and then sear in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat for 3-4 minutes per side or until very browned on both sides and almost cooked through out.
- Set the tuna aside on a cutting board, squeeze on some lemon juice and rest for 1 to 2 minutes before chopping the tuna into large 1” chunks. Set aside.
- Add the cooked noodles to the rondeau pot with the mushroom sauce and then add in the cooked tuna and 1 cup of peas and mix until combined.
- Transfer the mixture to a 13×9 casserole dish and flatten out.
- Breadcrumbs: in a medium-size bowl mix together the breadcrumbs with melted butter and ¼ cup each of shredded cheddar cheeses.
- Sprinkle on the 1 cup each of shredded cheddar cheese and then top off with breadcrumb-cheese topping and bake in the oven at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked.
- Suppose you like your tuna noodle casserole extra creamy, my recommendation is to place the casserole under the broiler for 4 to 7 minutes or just until the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted and the cheese is melted, instead of baking it in the oven. This procedure will allow for a very creamy casserole with a slightly toasted top.
- Optionally garnish with chopped parsley and serve.