The first time Duff said he wanted to make a tuna casserole, I told him he was disgusting. Who’s with me on that one?
Eventually, I learned that you just can’t stand between Duff and tuna casserole. He stuck with his dream for months, and finally, one Friday evening, he had me crying for more in the kitchen. More tuna casserole. Obviously.
If you’re like me, the thought of tuna casserole is icky. I love tuna and I love casseroles, but all I can think of is the fishy, flavorless mush served to me in the school cafeteria. Smelly tuna, canned condensed soups, soft and slippery noodles… No. Thanks. One of the key elements to making this better than typical tuna casserole is using albacore tuna, which is a little more expensive but has a milder taste. Then you amp up the flavor with spices and smoked gouda cheese, all wrapped up in a rich sauce using heavy cream. I’m sorry, but heavy cream is just so good! (Insert the obligatory “in moderation,” of course.)
If you want a lighter version, substituting a couple of dollops of sour cream or Greek yogurt would still give the sauce a rich creaminess. I just like to splurge every now and then. I justify it by saying I’m throwing a curveball at my metabolism. Because…right? For this Dude Cooks Friday post, I actually do have a few pictures of the process because I ran a quick test of Duff’s recipe, just to make sure it was blog-ready. I used 1 stockpot and 1 casserole dish to prepare everything that’s needed, and that’s something I really appreciated when it was time for clean up. Start by cooking the pasta in a large stockpot according to package directions. When the pasta cooking time is down to 1-2 minutes left, throw in the broccoli and peas. When the time is up, give it all a good drain. I actually had to coordinate times for cooking because I used 16 ounces of remnants from half-used pasta packages in our pantry. I think I used some ditalini, shells, and egg noodles. So take it from me, if you need to clear out the dried pasta in your cabinets, this is a great way to do it! Return the pot to the stove and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions and mushrooms, giving them a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Once they’re cooked down and the onions are slightly translucent, stir in the flour. Next, add the broth and cream and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, allow the mixture to simmer until it reduces and thickens. You’ll want to stir occasionally to prevent the cream from burning or sticking to the pan. It will start to stick to back of a spoon and the sides of the pot. You can visually see the difference — I tried to capture it in the pictures, but we all know I’m still pretty terrible at this food photography thing… Add the cheese to the pot and allow it to melt. Then throw in the pasta mixture, seasonings, and tuna, and give it all a big stir.Pour it into a greased/sprayed casserole dish. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over low-medium heat and toast the bread crumbs. Pour the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the casserole and bake for 20 minutes to let all of the flavors meld together.
You get 10-12 servings out of this casserole, depending on who you’re feeding. We actually had it for lunch nearly every day for an entire week. Just for the sake of knowledge, I calculated the cost for this dish based on price per measurement. The total cost was $15.74, making it $1.32–$1.57 per serving! I couldn’t believe it, especially considering the hefty price of the smoked gouda. This is so worth it! If you’re just starting your kitchen and have absolutely ZERO of the ingredients in your pantry and would need to buy whole packages everything, I figured up that it would cost roughly $36.06 to get started with this one — and that’s really talking spices and all.
We can’t wait to hear what you think of this one! I can hardly believe Duff actually pulled out a win with something as icky sounding as tuna casserole, but I’m a convert. I’m pretty sure you will be, too.
- 1 lb. (16 oz.) pasta (any shape will do, and egg noodles are great as well)
- 2 broccoli crowns, chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 package (~12) mushrooms, sliced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or water)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cans albacore tuna
- 2 cups smoked gouda cheese*, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 big dashes) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon (20 big dashes) Frank's Red Hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions. With one minute remaining in the boil, add the broccoli and peas. Drain.
- Return the pot the stove and heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onions and mushrooms until the onions are slightly translucent, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in flour and coat the vegetables.
- Add the broth and heavy cream to the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer until it thickens and reduces by half,.~6-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Add the cheese and melt it into the mushroom/cream mixture.
- Add the pasta mixture and tuna to the pot. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, Frank's, dill, thyme, and onion powder. Pour into a greased/sprayed casserole dish.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- While preheating, rinse the pot if necessary (or grab a skillet) and melt butter over low heat. Add the panko to the pot and toast the bread crumbs, about 2 minutes. Pour the bread crumbs evenly over the casserole.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- *Smoked gouda can generally be found in the specialty cheese area of your local grocery. It's a little expensive, but worth the splurge. Plus, you'll have more than you need so you can use it for other meals.