This Old-Fashioned Tuna Noodle Casserole recipe has a delicious Parmesan topping. An easy small-batch recipe perfect for two that's ready for dinner in less than an hour.
With quick and easy step-by-step photo instructions, anyone can make this simple tuna noodle casserole.
Tuna—canned tuna fish in water, drained
Pasta—dry pasta or egg noodles
Vegetables—onion, celery, frozen peas, mushrooms (optional)
Soup—cream of mushroom soup or celery soup
Topping—panko bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, butter, salt, pepper
Table of Contents (scroll for more)
Comfort food at its best with tender noodles, peas, a creamy sauce, an excellent Parmesan topping, and extra tuna. This is a smaller casserole for a smaller household but is easily doubled to full size for larger homes.
This is an easy, old-fashioned tuna casserole like Grandma would make with just pantry ingredients—an economical way to feed a few or a crowd. And the leftovers are wonderful.
Adapted from the classic tuna noodle casserole recipe popularized by Campbell soup in the 1950s—the creamy tuna casserole America loves. We added in my wife's and my memory from multiple casseroles over the years.
👨🍳How to Make Tuna Noodle Casserole—Step-by-Step
1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
2. In boiling water, cook 2 cups pasta to Al Denta per package instructions and drain well. Two cups of dry pasta is half of a 1-pound box.
3. Chop 1 rib of celery and ½ medium onion. Also, slice fresh mushrooms if using.
4. Saute in 1 teaspoon butter over medium-high heat until they become a bit transparent—about 5 minutes.
5. In a large bowl, mix drained cooked noodles, the sauteed vegetables, 1 can cream of celery (or mushroom) soup, ½ cup milk, 1 cup frozen peas, salt and pepper to taste (I suggest ½ teaspoon each), and two 5 oz cans tuna drained. Gently stir to damage the noodles. Pour the mixture into a 9 by 6 or 8-inch round baking dish.
6. Mix ½ cup panko breadcrumbs, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons melted butter.
7. Sprinkle the topping over the casserole.
8. Bake until nicely browned—about 30 minutes. Remove and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
For more details, keep reading. See the Recipe Card below for complete instructions and to print.
✔️Options and variations
Tuna fish options
- Use chunky light tuna fish in water, but solid white albacore tuna in water will have a bit less "fishy" taste if you want. I do not recommend oil-packed or generic tuna.
- This recipe uses twice as much tuna as many recipes. Cut in half if you wish.
- You could also use shredded cooked chicken, like rotisserie chicken, if you wanted.
Other Ingredient options
- Use the pasta you prefer for a casserole, cooked to al dente. Egg noodles are commonly used, but our favorites are elbow macaroni, penne, and rotini.
- Celery, onion, and peas are classic. The celery and the onion need some precooking since the casserole doesn't cook that long.
- To make tuna casserole with mushrooms, they should be sauteed along with celery and onion before baking. And use cream of mushroom soup instead of the cream of celery soup.
- Peas are small and can be added frozen, but other frozen vegetables like broccoli florets, green beans, or mixed vegetables should be thawed and cooked before adding.
- We love a Parmesan bread crumb topping. I have accused my wife of using a bigger pan so there could be more topping. I would call the topping a feature of this recipe—it is just that good.
- Broken-up potato chips are a simple topping. Other choices include Ritz crackers, Panko bread crumbs, cheddar cheese, or just no topping.
🗓️How to make tuna casserole ahead and cook later.
You can make this ahead in an oven-safe pan, wrap it well, and store it before baking. Seal tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for 3 months. Be sure to defrost a frozen casserole in the refrigerator before baking.
When ready to cook, remove the casserole from the refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking.
↕️How to make this a smaller recipe or a "family size" recipe
The recipe, as written, makes 4 servings in a 6 by 9 inch baking dish or an 8-inch round pan. Perfect for our "for two" household for two meals. Or make it for one and freeze some leftovers.
A double recipe will make 8 servings, and use a standard full-size casserole dish or a 9 by 13 cake pan and take a bit longer to cook.
You can make a half recipe with only 2 servings if you have a baking dish of the right size with a surface area of 25-30 square inches—like a 6-inch round or some other odd sizes. Adjust the serving number to 2, which will cook faster.
- Use the recipe card and adjust the number of servings from 4 to the desired number.
- Use the amount of ingredients in the ingredient list, not the instructions—those do not adjust.
- Use an appropriate-sized pan to have a casserole about 1 ½ inches thick. Smaller or thinner casseroles will cook faster, and larger or thicker casseroles will take longer. It is done when golden brown and bubbling along the edge.
Storage and reheating leftovers
Once cooked, this casserole is good refrigerated in an airtight container for 4 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
To reheat, first thaw overnight in the refrigerator if frozen. Reheat covered in the oven, an air fryer, or microwave. If it is drying, add a splash of water or chicken broth.
No, there is no allowance for the fluid that dry pasta would take, and the timing is wrong.
No. The original recipes from the 1930s used a white sauce. A white sauce starts with butter and flour to make a roux. Add milk and seasonings like garlic, salt, and pepper and cook while whisking until thickened—many recipes will add cheddar or other cheese.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
Have you tried this recipe, or have a question? Join the community discussion in the comments.
Old-Fashioned Tuna Noodle Casserole—Small Batch
- 2 5 oz cans tuna in water - drained
- 2 cups dry pasta or egg noodles
- ½ onion - medium chopped
- 1 rib celery - chopped
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 can cream of celery or mushroom soup - 10 oz can
- ½ cups milk
- 1 cup frozen peas
- ½ cup Panko bread crumbs
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons butter - melted
- salt and pepper to taste - about ½ teaspoon each
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- In boiling water, cook 2 cups pasta to Al Denta per package instructions and drain well. Two cups of dry pasta is half of a 1-pound box.
- Chop 1 rib of celery and ½ medium onion. Also, slice fresh mushrooms if using. Saute in 1 teaspoon butter over medium-high heat until they become a bit transparent—about 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix drained cooked noodles, the sauteed vegetables, 1 can cream of celery (or mushroom) soup, ½ cup milk, 1 cup frozen peas, salt and pepper to taste (I suggest ½ teaspoon each), and two 5 oz cans tuna drained. Gently stir to damage the noodles. Pour the mixture into a 9 by 6 or 8-inch round baking dish.
- Mix the topping of ½ cup panko breadcrumbs, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons melted butter.
- Sprinkle the topping over the casserole.
- Bake until nicely browned—about 30 minutes. Remove and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Your Own Private Notes
- This smaller recipe uses a 6 by 9-inch baking dish or an 8-inch round pan. A double recipe uses a full-size 13X9 casserole dish and may take a bit longer to brown.
- Making a half size recipe is discussed in the recipe post.
- This recipe has double the tuna of many recipes, cut it back if you wish.
- We don’t eat mushrooms in our house due to food allergies. If you want mushrooms, cook them along with the celery and use cream of mushroom soup.
- Make-ahead instructions are in the recipe post.
- You can refrigerate for 4 days after cooking. Good frozen for 3 months.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Publisher's Note: Originally Published January 16, 2017. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.