This modern take on classic Tuna Casserole is made with a homemade creamy base, fresh produce, loads of flavor and yummy crispy garlic topping.
Once you know the method to this easy hot-bake you’ll be baking casseroles from scratch all the time!
Quick and Comforting Weeknight Meal
Because it’s made the old-fashioned way with chicken stock, milk, flour and butter instead of canned soup, sour cream and mayo it’s so easy to customize to your own unique tastes!
Serve it up with a crisp green salad, and a loaf of bread or easy baking powder biscuits for an easy, nutritious and filling weeknight meal! Once you have the basic method down, you’ll be whipping up your own unique variations of this cheesy Tuna Casserole with Garlic Crisp Topping in no time. And if you do, please please come back and tell me about it ?
How to Make Tuna Casserole from scratch
It’s actual so much easier to make silky sauces and cream-based meals from scratch than most people realize. Start by melting butter and dividing it up to be used for both the crispy garlic crisp and what will become the creamy casserole base. Add loads of fresh produce – onions, garlic, celery and carrots – to the melted butter and cook down before sprinkling with flour and whisking in stock and milk to create a creamy flavorful base. Add frozen peas and return to a simmer before removing from heat and stirring in mozzarella cheese and tuna flakes. Season to taste, stir in cooked noodles and top with panko crumbs coated with melted butter and garlic. Give it a good bake in a hot oven until browned and bubbly and serve! Or, pop it in the freezer instead and bake it up later.
Make Ahead Meal
Freeze tuna casserole up to three months to have this easy meal on the table even faster!
- To freeze the entire casserole – line baking dish with plastic wrap before pouring filling into the dish. Then instead of baking, flash freeze until solid. Pull up on plastic wrap to release the entire casserole and vacuum seal or place in extra-large freezer bag and freeze. When ready to serve, place frozen casserole back in the same dish, allow to defrost completely then bake as directed.
- To freeze filling only – make filling and spoon into vacuum seal or freezer bags, store flat up to three months. Defrost in the refrigerator and prepare crispy topping then bake as directed.
- Without frozen peas – try adding spinach, cauliflower, broccoli or fresh sliced mushrooms with the onions.
- Without pasta – make it with rice or quinoa instead.
- Instead of panko – try it topped with breadcrumbs, corn flakes or potato chip crumbles instead of panko (if using chips skip the garlic butter coating).
- Noodle casserole without tuna – try using either shredded or canned chicken or leftover flaked or canned salmon.
- Dairy free tuna casserole – swap out the milk for all chicken stock and use olive oil or bacon grease instead of butter.
- Gluten free tuna casserole – use rice or quinoa instead of noodles and substitute cornstarch for flour (use ⅓ less cornstarch than flour).
Cheesy Tuna Casserole with Garlic Crisp Topping Recipe
- 8 ounces egg noodles rigatoni, or any other large noodles
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 6 teaspoons chopped garlic divided into 2 teaspoon and 4 teaspoon portions
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves chopped and divided into 2 ¼ cup portions
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 medium scallions sliced whites and greens separated
- 3 medium carrots divided
- 6 medium celery ribs with leaves intact diced
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese divided into 1 cup and 2 cup portions
- 12 ounces canned solid white albacore 2 cans drained
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- sea salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large saucepan bring water to boil, season generously with salt and boil noodles according to package instructions. Drain and reserve for later.
- Meanwhile, melt 1 stick of butter in a large saucepan.
- Remove 2 tablespoons to medium bowl and add 2 teaspoons (or 2 cloves) chopped garlic. Stir to infuse the garlic flavor into the butter. Add panko breadcrumbs and stir to coat. Once cool, stir in 1 cup shredded mozzarella and ¼ cup fresh basil to make the Garlic Crisp Topping.
- Add onions to remaining melted butter and cook over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 4 teaspoons garlic, scallion whites, dried thyme, carrots and celery. Cook a few minutes longer before sprinkling with flour and stirring to coat.
- Cook about a minute then slowly add chicken stock, scraping up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add milk and return to boil before stirring in frozen peas.
- Remove from heat and remaining 2 cups mozzarella cheese, noodles and tuna (being careful not to break up tuna chunks too much).
- Pour into large casserole dish and cover with an even layer of Garlic Crisp Topping.
- Bake in preheated 400 degree oven, uncovered for 20 minutes or until bubbly and browned. If the topping is browning too quickly, cover with foil. If it’s not browned enough, finish in the broiler for a few seconds.
- Let stand at least 5 minutes before sprinkling with remaining ¼ chopped basil. Drizzle with hot sauce (optional) and serve.
- Will keep refrigerated 3-4 days and 3-4 months frozen.