Upscale Tuna Casserole Recipe

We're all for infusing our favorite classic dishes with new life courtesy of some fun and creative modifications. From ingredient swaps to new cooking methods, even the most popular recipes deserve an upgrade every now and then. Tuna casserole is a fine example. As Food Republic recipe developer A.J. Forget points out, "While many of us surely look back fondly at the tuna casseroles of our childhood, when it finds its way to the table these days, it does not delight our palates in the same way." 

His solution is to elevate a basic tuna casserole recipe to an upscale version that "turns it on its head by combining it with pasta al tonno." He describes, "The heavy cream of mushroom soup is traded out for fresh, vibrant Mediterranean flavors, and a new dish is born which is both light and comforting." Thanks to "new and more sophisticated flavors [..] this dish bridges the gap between adult palates and childhood favorites," Forget shares. We're more than ready to move on to new heights of tuna casserole flavors. 

Gather the ingredients for this upscale tuna casserole recipe

For this recipe, you'll need egg noodles, olive oil (to sauté and for the topping), a medium-sized onion (finely diced), minced garlic cloves, finely chopped parsley leaves, flour, dry white wine, whole milk, grated Parmesan cheese, capers, lemon zest, canned tuna (drained), salt, panko breadcrumbs, and cherry tomatoes (halved). 

If you're debating about which bottle of white wine to select for his dish, our recipe developer points out that since the recipe only requires a bit, "choose something you'd like to drink alongside it." For him, that's pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc. As for the tuna, he uses yellowfin tuna canned in olive oil but notes that, "any sort of canned tuna would work just fine."

Start by cooking the egg noodles

First off, preheat the oven to 450 F and boil a pot of water. Cook the egg noodles according to the instructions on the package. Once ready, drain off the water and set the cooked pasta aside. 

Sauté the vegetables

Place a large sauté pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat and pour in ¼ cup of olive oil. Toss in the diced onion, minced garlic, and finely chopped parsley, and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Next, stir in the flour to coat the vegetables. Cook the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes or until the flour browns, stirring occasionally to prevent the contents from sticking.

Add the liquids and remaining ingredients

Lower the burner heat to medium and pour in the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any sticky bits. Add the milk 1 cup at a time, stirring regularly. Simmer the contents as you keep stirring for a minute or two until the sauce reaches a smooth and thick consistency. Then, take the pan off the heat and stir in ½ a cup of grated Parmesan, lemon zest, capers, and the drained tuna. Season the dish with salt to taste.

Combine and assemble the components

Combine the sauce and the noodles until everything is properly coated. Transfer the noodles to a 9x13-inch casserole dish. In a small bowl, mix the panko breadcrumbs with ½ a cup of grated Parmesan and ¼ cup of olive oil. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the casserole. 

Finally, place halved cherry tomatoes over the entire surface of the dish. Forget remarks that "Studding the top of the casserole with halved cherry tomatoes creates little pops of acidity in the dish, which work beautifully with the creamy, savory pasta."

Bake the casserole and serve

Bake the dish for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is a nice golden brown color. Forget recommends serving this upscale tuna casserole with a green salad and the white wine you used for cooking.

If you have any leftovers, he instructs: "Simply put a piece of foil over the top of the casserole dish. To reheat, simply uncover and place in the oven at 250 F until it is warmed through."

Upscale Tuna Casserole Recipe
5 from 16 ratings
Tuna casserole has come a long way since the last time you had it as a kid - this upscale recipe proves it.
Prep Time
Cook Time
tuna casserole portion on plate
Total time: 50 minutes
  • 1 pound egg noodles
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 (5-ounce) cans tuna in oil, drained
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  2. Boil the egg noodles according to package instructions then drain and set aside.
  3. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add ¼ cup of olive oil followed by the onion, garlic, and parsley. Sauté for around 5 minutes until the onion is translucent.
  4. Add the flour to the pan and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the flour browns nicely, stirring occasionally.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium and pour in the wine while scraping the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add the milk 1 cup at a time while you continue to stir. Simmer for a minute or 2, stirring often until the sauce is smooth and thick.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, capers, tuna, and salt to taste.
  8. Combine the sauce with the noodles and spread the mixture evenly in a 9x13-inch casserole dish.
  9. Mix the panko, ½ cup of grated Parmesan, and ¼ cup of olive oil in a separate bowl, and sprinkle it over the noodles.
  10. Stud the top with halved cherry tomatoes.
  11. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is nicely browned.
  12. Serve with a green salad and the remaining white wine.
Calories per Serving 575
Total Fat 25.9 g
Saturated Fat 7.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 72.7 mg
Total Carbohydrates 53.9 g
Dietary Fiber 2.8 g
Total Sugars 5.8 g
Sodium 582.5 mg
Protein 28.4 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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