There are many variations on tuna casserole. My favorite is one I learned about when I was in college. It was one of my roommate’s favorite meals when she was growing up, and as it uses affordable, readily available ingredients, it made a perfect meal for poor college students. I like it so well, I continue to make it today — and it’s so yummy, that even folks who’ve told me they don’t like tuna casserole have told me it’s wonderful 🙂 (Go on, give it a listen. You know Aretha will lift your spirits.)
In its most basic form — the way I made it in college — the casserole is simply a mix of macaroni and cheese (the stove-top kind, prepared from a box), a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, a can of tuna, and some milk. Even though tuna isn’t nearly as affordable as it used to be, it still makes for an economical and yummy meal. It doubles easily to feed a big or exceptionally hungry crowd.
Since my college days, I’ve dressed it up — and healthied it up — a bit:
- I make my own (reduced fat) stove top macaroni and cheese.
- I use water-packed tuna (actually, I’ve always done that — even in my uni days. 😉 )
- I use reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup (cream of celery soup works, also).
- I’ve increased the amount of tuna (and, thereby, boosting the lean protein) from a smaller 6 ounce can to using 11 to 12 ounces of tuna.
- I use reduced-fat milk.
- I add in some more veggie nutrition by tossing in some frozen peas and some sliced celery (and y’all, I am NOT a pea fan, but I do like a handful or two of frozen peas in this dish). Indeed, depending upon the amount and variety of veggies you add in, you can make this truly a one-dish meal, which is what I did when my beloved was recovering from some dental work and could only eat soft foods.
- I add a topping of crushed crackers to give it a bit of crunch.
This is a casserole that’s tasty year ’round. It only bakes at 350F (you could even bake it for a longer period at 325F if you prefer), so it doesn’t heat up the kitchen to any great degree. You can even cook it in the microwave, if you want, in a microwave safe cooking dish, ‘though of course, the texture won’t be quite the same as when it’s baked in the oven.
This is so yummy, Charlie might say that it’s casserole as an art. 😉 (Go on, take 30 seconds out of your life and watch it — you know you want to!)
Tuna Casserole (Feeds 4 to 6; doubles easily)
- 6 to 12 ounces tuna, drained and flaked (I like more tuna, so I use 11 to 12 ounces)
- Prepared macaroni and cheese ( either from a box — make with reduced fat directions — or equivalent volume of homemade)
- Milk (anywhere from 1/2 to 1 1/4 cup, give or take; I use 1% milk and I eyeball it by pouring it into the empty soup can — one less dish for washing by not using a measuring cup!)
- 1 can condensed reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup or cream of celery soup
- Some reduced-fat grated cheese (optional)
- Veggies of choice (optional): I usually like to add in a couple handfuls of frozen green peas and 1 or 2 stalks of celery, sliced
- Crushed crackers for topping (optional)
- Coarse-ground black pepper to taste
- Prepare macaroni and cheese. (Note: if using leftover macaroni and cheese, cold from the refrigerator, mix all ingredients together in a medium to large-sized bowl.)
- Mix together cream of mushroom soup and milk (I usually start off with about 1/2 can of milk and add in more as needed). Stir into macaroni and cheese. Add in tuna. Add in vegetable(s) and a bit more grated cheese, if desired. Add more milk, if needed (mixture should be thick but liquid, rather the consistency of stew). Season to taste with coarse ground black pepper.
- Lightly butter or spray a 2 quart baking dish. (If you add in lots of vegetables, you may need to use a larger baking dish.) Pour and spread mixture into dish. Top with crumbled crackers, if desired.
- Bake (at 325F to 350F) until bubbly and heated through, 30 to 45 minutes. OR, cook in microwave until bubbly and heated through (time will vary depending upon microwave, wattage, but anywhere from 6 to 15 minutes).
- Let rest 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.