This tuna and noodle recipe is an old fashioned comfort food casserole that will delight everyone. Velvety cheese sauce over simple pantry ingredients so you can feed your family a filling and budget-friendly meal!
Time at home doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the kitchen. This and other main dish casseroles like our Easy Taco Goulash and Chicken Artichoke casserole are super simple meals your family will love that don’t require a ton of time.
All of us are eating at home more often these days and looking for comfort food to make the stress of the day go away. This Old-Fashioned Tuna Casserole will make even the pickiest of eaters happy.
An old family recipe that has been used for 4 generations so you know it has to be good… there’s just nothing better than the classic casserole recipes!
Made with canned tuna, noodles with a light cheese sauce it’s hearty enough you don’t need anything with it, although our family loves a good homemade buttermilk biscuit and a simple green salad with it for a full meal.
No fancy ingredients just real food.
That’s right— No processed foods! It’s all made from scratch. (no judgment if you want to swap in some other things…. we’re just watching our salt intake so processed foods are out for us.)
The tuna and noodles can be made ahead of time and baked just before serving. The casserole heats up well too so it makes it a great option for potlucks.
This family meal is so good we always make a large batch because it heats up so well for leftovers for later.
How to make Old Fashioned Tuna Hot Dish
- Start with the ingredients. Canned tuna: I prefer water-based solid white albacore so it is a little bit lighter. If you only have tuna in oil, it works — don’t stress.
- It sounds fancy, but you make a mornay sauce— which is just a fancy french word for a sauce made with butter, flour and milk— then right at the end add some cheese!
- To get a rich sauce, stir the flour and butter for about 2 minutes to bring out the nutty flavor of the flour. Slowly adding the milk and stirring until it gets to just the thickness of a thin pancake batter.
- Any mild cheese will work, but buy the block and shred it yourself. The pre-shredded cheese saves time, but it has a coating on it to prevent clumping that leads to a lumpy sauce. Smooth sauce is what we are aiming for.
- The classic recipe calls for egg noodles, but any pasta will do (elbow macaroni, shells, spiral(rotini) even penne pasta.
- The key to the noodles is to cook them to “al dente” so they just have a small bite to them. The reason for this is so that when the tuna bakes they don’t turn to mush. The noodles will continue to cook in the oven and by undercooking them when boiling them, you will end up with perfectly done noodles after baking.
- Frozen or fresh peas add great color, but you can add broccoli, corn or whatever vegetable you’d like.
The two most important things to make this successfully- cook the pasta to al dente and shred your own cheese versus pre-shredded cheese.
Variations on Tuna Bake
Tuna Casserole with sour cream:
Add 1/2 cup sour cream in at the same time you add the cheese to get a tangy flavor.
Tuna Rice Casserole
Swap out the noodles with 2 cups of cooked rice for a nice variation!
Common Questions about Tuna and Noodles
Ritz Crackers are a retro option, but potato chips, panko or toasted breadcrumbs work too. Making it for a potluck? You can make it a little fancier by adding sliced toasted almonds.
It’s a great dish for freezing. I make a double batch and save one for later for an easy dinner. You’ll want to make sure it’s completely covered and protected — I wrap it in foil, then in plastic wrap. It will keep for 3 months. You’ll want to make sure to let it completely thaw before cooking it, or it will cook unevenly.
You can make this up to three days ahead of time. You’ll make it up to the point of adding a topping and place it covered in the fridge. Allow it to sit on the counter for 30 mins before adding the topping and baking it. You might have to add a little time to the baking time since the dish is cold.
Love Comfort Food Casseroles? Be sure and check out these other Retro Favorites!
- Ham and Potatoes (this recipe has been pinned over 100,000 times!
- Classic Turkey Tetrazzini (easily make with chicken too!)
- Chicken Artichoke Casserole with Rice (another great make-ahead easy baked dish
- Chicken or Turkey Divan ~ vintage classic at its easiest!
- Cheesy Taco Goulash a twist on a family classic!
- Tater Tot Casserole
- Better Than Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole Omgosh… so so good!
- Classic Biscuits and Gravy Casserole
- Old Fashioned Sour Cream Chicken Casserole
I’d love it if you enjoy this recipe if you’d comment and rate the recipe 5 stars in the recipe card. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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- 4 Cups Cooked Wide Egg Noodles, cooked to al dente - see notes
- 1 - 7 ounce Can Tuna, Drained (see notes for types)
- 1 Tablespoon Butter, unsalted
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- 1 Tablespoon Flour
- 1 Cup Milk
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- Dash Pepper
- 1/4 Pound American Cheese, shredded- (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup Peas
- 1/3 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- Preheat oven to 400°
- Prepare baking dish (approximately 1-quart casserole dish) by buttering edges or using pam spray. Set aside.
- Place noodles, and tuna in a mixing bowl. (Flake the tune gently so the pieces are broken apart.
- In a saucepan, melt butter on medium-high. Then add minced onion. Cook for 2 minutes until onion is translucent.
- Add flour while constantly stirring with a whisk. Cook for 2 minutes to cook out the powdery taste and bring out the nutty rich flavor.
- Add milk, and continue to whisk for 5-7 minutes until mixture thickens. Then add cheese, salt and pepper to taste Cook for 2-3 minutes more until all cheese has melted.
- Remove from heat and pour over tuna and noodles. Add peas. Stir to combine.
- Place into a buttered baking dish -- If making ahead, cover the dish with plastic, and place in the fridge. Don't place topping on until you are ready to bake it. (see notes)
- Stir panko and melted butter together and sprinkle over tuna and noodles.
- Bake for 20 minutes and serve.
- Be sure to not over cook the noodles. Cook them to al dente, where there is a small bite to them. The noodles will continue to cook during baking to a softer texture. Over cooking them will lead to mushy noodles during baking.
- Any canned tuna will work, I prefer white chunk albacore in water because it is more appealing in texture and color to me. Tuna in oil is fine too-- as you are draining off all the liquid.
- Be sure and shred your own cheese, versus buying it pre-shredded. Pre-shredded has a coating to prevent clumping and will lead to a funny consistency in the sauce.
- You can make this ahead of time up until placing the topping on. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap with no topping. It can be made 3 days ahead of time. When ready to bake, remove the dish from the fridge at least a half an hour before baking to allow it to come closer to room temperature. Add the topping just before baking. You will have to add 5-10 additional minutes since it will have been cold before baking to allow it to heat throughout.
- If freezing, freeze without topping. It freezes for up to 3 months. Remove from the freezer the night before to allow it to thaw completely in the fridge. Follow baking instructions for the make ahead on the note previous.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 488Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 63mgSodium: 945mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 4gSugar: 4gProtein: 28g
This recipe was calculated using the exact brands and measurements I used to make this recipe. If you are following a strict diet please note changing anything will cause the nutritional info to change. Please calculate your own nutritional information if you want it exact to what you make and use my calculations as a guide only.