Fish Dish of the Month: Tuna Noodle Casserole

Ed Note: Fish is not only a great source of EPA and DHA Omega-3s, but it is also a good source of protein and minerals such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and selenium. Since most people don’t eat fish every day, our fish oil supplements are a great choice to get a daily intake of EPA & DHA Omega-3. The Wiley family thinks you should both take fish oil supplements AND eat sustainable fish as often as possible. On those days that you do have the opportunity to eat fish, we’re here to help with some recipe ideas. Enjoy!

Tuna noodle casserole is a classic American dish that has gotten a bad reputation over the years. Growing up my parents never made this dish because they had too many bad memories of eating “cat casserole”. When a 1950s approach with low quality canned tuna and condensed soups is employed, a tuna noodle casserole can run the risk of smelling like cat food. However, high quality canned tuna and a simple white sauce will make this an instant family favorite.

We’ve talked about taking care when selecting tuna before. Most common brands of canned tuna are sourced from fisheries with management issues. We recommend using tuna from U.S. & Canada west coast fisheries that are troll and pole-line caught, meaning the fish are caught one at a time resulting in very little by-catch. Excellent canned tuna brands include Wild Planet, and Henry & Lisa’s . It’s well worth noting that these brands which only cook their tuna once, often have twice the amount of EPA & DHA per serving that other mass tuna brands have because its not lost in the cooking process.

My husband (full disclosure: I just cooked the pasta. My husband was the real cook.) uses this Food Network recipe as a base with some modifications.

  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 1 can mushrooms (4 oz) (substitute 6-8oz fresh white or cremini mushrooms)
  • 2 cups broccoli (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 1/2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp yellow curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 pound Organic whole wheat macaroni, cooked to package directions
  • 2 cans (5 oz) tuna
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup powdered Parmesan cheese
Veggies, tuna, and whole wheat pasta are the primary ingredients.
Veggies, tuna, and whole wheat pasta are the primary ingredients.

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Heat 1 part olive oil and 1 part butter in a skillet until butter foams. Add mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms have released their water. You may reduce the butter and increase the olive oil, but do not use more butter than olive oil. I like to use butter for the flavor, but the milk solids will burn unless you use at least 50% olive oil when sautéing.

Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil and butter to remove excess water and add flavor.
Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil and butter to remove excess water and add flavor.

Heat oil in dutch oven or large skillet. (Use a dutch oven if you have one because then this is truly a one pot meal.) When oil is hot, add carrot, onion, and celery and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic to pot for no more than minute, stirring the whole time to avoid burning the garlic. Add flour and stir until there are no lumps with the veggies. Add the milk and broth to the pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Be sure to use at least 2% milk in the white sauce for it to thicken properly – skim is not going to cut it. We prefer to use whole, grass-fed milk for everything (Snowville Creamery is our favorite local Ohio grass-fed dairy ) Reduce pot to simmer and stir until sauce has thickened, about 8 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce and curry powder to sauce mixture.

Stir the sauce mixture until thickened
Stir the sauce mixture until thickened

Add broccoli, corn, cooked pasta, grated cheese, and tuna to vegetable-sauce mixture and stir to combine. (Note: you can and should add the tuna can juices to the broth if the tuna was not packed in water or oil, i.e. like Wild Planet’s tuna)  Top with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Put it in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

The one pot meal is a thing of beauty.
The one pot meal is a thing of beauty.

You can use frozen vegetables in lieu of fresh if necessary. You can use up to 3 cans of tuna in the dish and most pastas. This is a casserole so you can use what you have on hand.

This meal really hits the spot on a cold winter evening. It is easily a family favorite in our household because it has all the favorites: pasta, fish, and corn. I also really like this recipe because it makes lots of left-overs, at least for our little family.

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