I know tuna noodle anything tends to get a bad rep (not unlike the Shepherd’s Pie I talked about last week) which is why I decided a one pot tuna noodle wonder needed to be made, perfected, and posted. No sense slaving over a ridiculously fussy tuna noodle casserole (or just a really bad one) when a 30-minutes, no-fuss version would do just fine.
Growing up, my mom made tuna noodle casserole a lot. A lot a lot. I’ve always liked tuna so I don’t remember hating it but I also know I wanted a bit of a reinvention on the old dear (ok, so I do remember it being slightly gloopy and mushy). One thing my mom always did was sprinkle just a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice over her portion of the tuna noodle concoction on her plate. It sounds a little weird, I know, but it eventually became a habit I adopted and it’s honestly really yummy. The tart tanginess is perfect for the creamy tuna pasta.
In the version today, I recommend using fresh lemon juice (it’s kind of fancy and pretty to serve lemon wedges along with dinner especially on your average Tuesday night and might earn you a few extra rock star points) and I promise that the light pop of zesty lemon juice adds a ton of brightness and flavor to an otherwise everyday, dare-I-say-boring meal. Sometimes it’s the little things (in this case the fresh lemon and parsley) that take a weeknight meal up just a few notches. And heaven knows I could use a few notches anytime I can get them.
This meal couldn’t be simpler – one pot, 30-minutes or less, tasty and wholesome. That’s a lot of super love going on for tuna and noodles.
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I use the Barilla brand of small shells for this recipe - other brands can be used but watch the note below in the recipe instructions about cooking times and if extra liquid is needed.
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 medium shallot (or 1/4 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups water
- 2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 16 ounces small pasta shells
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 5-ounce cans white albacore tuna, drained
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- In a 4- or 5-quart pot, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the shallot (or onion) and garlic for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the milk, water, broth, shells, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, stirring often (at a simmer, not a rigorous boil) until the pasta is al dente, according to package directions (the pasta will continue to cook a bit over the next few minutes so don't overcook it in this step). Each brand of pasta will will differ slightly; depending on the brand, you may need to add a bit more liquid toward the end of cooking time but do so gradually so it isn't too soupy. There should be a bit of liquid left even after the shells are just tender. They'll continue to soften up and the liquid will be absorbed as other ingredients are stirred in and as it rests.
- Stir in the milk or heavy cream, mustard, and lemon juice. Add the tuna and mix gently until combined. Stir in additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Let the pasta rest for 5-10 minutes - it will thicken up and get nice and creamy.
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve with extra lemon wedges - it is delicious with lemon juice drizzled over the top of individual servings.
Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe