Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole

After about 14 months of recipe testing and photography for my cookbook, I am finally finallydone. No more waking up every morning and consulting the massive spreadsheet of recipes and the to-do list. No more schlepping to any of the three New York Chinatowns for ingredients (unless I’m teaching a class or blogging for Appetite for China.) No more months of eating Chinese food almost every single day.

It’s a little bittersweet, actually. I really enjoyed the cookbook writing and photography process, as hard as it was. But it is nice to finally be able to cook different cuisines at home again. It’s funny — while many fellow Americans try out Asian food to spice up their home cooking, I couldn’t wait to try out (after a year in which my diet was 95% Chinese food)…tuna noodle casserole.

If memory serves me correctly, this might be my first time putting together tuna noodle casserole. I’ve certainly eaten it plenty of times, at church potlucks and other people’s homes, but had never found the occasion to put one together myself. Then just this week, I found myself craving it. What was appealing was not just the starch and crisp cheesy topping, but also the ease of making a meal without finely cutting everything and cleaning up my wok afterward.

And so I made a tuna noodle casserole, from a recipe out of The American Century Cookbook, a collection of classic 20th century recipes with tons of fun historical tidbits thrown in (kind of like this blog!) For example, did you know that tuna was first canned in 1903? And that tuna casseroles actually became popular during and after World War I, when meat was scarce and Americans needed another good and cheap source of protein? I didn’t!

So here it is, a dish your mother or grandmother has probably made countless times but one which I made myself for the first time this week. I was reminded of just how easy casseroles are, even as someone who has spent a year writing about the speediness and simplicity of stir-frying. It’s pretty much all assembly. Note: please don’t forgo the cheesy breadcrumb topping, which elevates the casserole from good to great.

Another note: the last time I checked Campbell’s makes 3 different types of condensed cream of mushroom soup. Get the one that doesn’t list MSG as an ingredient. It makes the world of a difference if you, like me, hate the lingering weird aftertaste from conventional canned soups.


Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 cups dried egg noodles
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans tuna, drained and flaked
  • 1/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
  1. In a medium pot, cook the egg noodles according to package instructions. Drain well.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly butter a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish.
  3. In the casserole, stir together the cream of mushroom soup and milk until well-blended. Stir in the noodles, peas, tuna, and salt.
  4. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
  5. Combine the cheese and bread crumbs in a small dish. Scatter the filling evenly over the tuna mixture. Bake for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the casserole is lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Adapted from The American Century Cookbook

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Casserole, Entrees, Recipes, Tuna

2 Responses to Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole

  1. Pamela February 20, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    Congratulations on finishing your cookbook. I just discovered your site by looking for Gen. Tso’s chicken. I enjoyed reading about other recipes on your side as well. I am really eager to try your crispy chicken recipes. They all look so good. One thing I remember from the states is lemon chicken. I’ve lived in Japan for the last 45 years and one thing I’ve learned is that each country has its own kind of Chinese cooking. Practically all of the recipes popular in the states are different in Japan. And in some cases don’t even exist. One thing I have noticed about US Chinese cooking is that a great deal of sugar seems to be used – which is different from Japan. I was wondering what your take on that is.

  2. Diana February 20, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    Thanks, Pamela! It’s true, many countries do have their own unique ways of making Chinese food. On the sugar issue, a lot of Chinese cooking does incorporate a small amount of sugar, usually in sauces with vinegar to balance out the acidity or in braised meat dishes. In the US, restaurants tend to heighten the sugar usage, probably because many of the most popular dishes that customers order (sweet and sour pork, orange chicken, General Tso’s) are pretty sweet. In Japan and other Asian countries, sugar just isn’t as big a part of the diet as it is here. Restaurants just tend to make what customers want, and it’s not a bad thing if the food tastes good. I just find the different variations of Chinese food around the world such a fascinating topic.


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