This Smaller Tuna Noodle Casserole recipe comes together in 20 minutes and is ready to eat in less than an hour. Comfort food at its best with tender noodles, peas, a creamy sauce, and an excellent Parmesan topping. This is a smaller casserole for a smaller household but is easily doubled to full size for larger homes.
A tuna noodle casserole recipe has been on my "to publish" list for several years. Anytime I ask for suggested recipes from readers, it comes up. We continued making it, but I never got the recipe ready to post.
But I had a few problems. The biggest issue was the can of soup. Frequent readers will know I do not like using things like canned soup. But any attempt to eliminate it would require a lot more work and a larger recipe—both against the blog's main themes.
The "inspiration" recipe is the classic tuna casserole recipe at the Campbell site. Think of it as the basic recipe America loves. It used Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup, and due to food allergies, we always used cream of celery soup. Add in my wife's memory for the buff-up version of the basic recipe, and we have an excellent tuna casserole.
👨🍳How to make this recipe
- Cook pasta al denta.
- Chop and saute celery and onion, then saute until clearing.
- Mix pasta, drained tuna, soup, peas, and saute celery and onion.
- Pour into a 9X6 inch baking dish. A double recipe uses a full-size 13X9 casserole dish.
- Mix topping of butter, Parmesan cheese, and Panko bread crumbs. Add topping.
- Bake until nicely browned—about 30 minutes.
- Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Use the tuna you love. My wife and I both grew up with water-packed Chicken of the Sea® chunk light tuna, and that is what I used. 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.
Also, this recipe uses twice as much tuna as many recipes. If I'm making tuna casserole, you will be able to find the tuna. Cut in half if you wish.
You could also use shredded cooked chicken if you wanted.
We always use Campbell's Cream of Celery, but the cream of mushroom or chicken will work. We are using the thickening power to make it creamy.
Use the pasta you prefer for a casserole, cooked to al dente. Egg noodles are commonly used, but elbow macaroni, penne, or rotini are our favorites.
We like to add celery and onion along with peas. Those are very typical. The celery and the onion need some precooking since the casserole doesn't cook that long.
Mushrooms are a common favorite but should be sauteed with the celery and onion before baking.
Peas are small and can be added frozen, but other frozen vegetables like broccoli florets, green beans, or mixed vegetables should be thawed.
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 so good.
Alternative toppings are broken-up potato chips, Ritz crackers, Panko bread crumbs, cheddar cheese, or just no topping.
Generally a bread side like garlic bread, rolls, or biscuits. A side garden salad or your favorite hot vegetables like carrots, broccoli, or cauliflower.
No, there is no allowance for the fluid that would take, and the timing is wrong.
You can make this ahead in an oven-safe pan, wrap well, and store it before baking. Seal tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3-4 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.
Once cooked, this casserole is good refrigerated in an airtight container for 3-4 days or frozen for 3-4 months.
📖Comfort Food Recipes
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Preheat the oven to 400°.
In boiling water, cook 2 cups pasta to Al Denta per package instructions. Two cups are half of a 1-pound box.
Chop one rib of celery and ½ medium onion. 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 onion and celery, 1 can cream of celery 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. Stir gently not to damage the noodles. Pour the mixture into a 9 by 6 baking dish.
Mix 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.
Smaller Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 2 cups dry pasta or egg noodles
- ½ onion - medium chopped
- 1 rib celery - chopped
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2 cans tuna in water - drained
- 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 for me
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- In boiling water, cook 2 cups pasta to Al Denta per package instructions. Two cups are half of a 1-pound box.
- Chop one rib of celery and ½ medium onion. 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 onion and celery, 1 can cream of celery 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. Stir gently not to damage the noodles.
- Pour the mixture into a 9 by 6 baking dish. Mix 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 is a smaller recipe and uses a 9X6 inch baking dish. A double recipe uses a full-size 13X9 casserole dish and may take a bit longer to brown.
- I use more tuna than some recipes, and you may cut it in half if you want.
- We don’t eat mushrooms in our house due to food allergies. If you want mushrooms, cook them along with the celery.
- Other “cream of” soups will work like mushroom or chicken.
- You can refrigerate for 3-4 days after cooking.
- Good frozen for 3-4 months.
- You may make it ahead and freeze for 3-4 months or refrigerate for 2-3 days. If frozen, thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight before baking.
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.