Tuna Noodle Casserole with Veggies
Pasta casseroles are a great way to feed a hungry crowd, because who can say no to hot, bubbly pasta fresh from the oven?! Definitely not me – a good casserole steals my heart every time. Thankfully, unlike most of the carb and fat-laden casseroles out there, this dish features a lean source of protein and plenty of fresh veggies. So you can feel good about digging in.
There are countless flavor combinations for pasta casseroles, from saucy to cheesy to protein-packed. Their inexpensive ingredients, straight-forward nature, and the fact that most of the “cooking” is done in the oven make them a popular choice for home cooks. This Tuna Noodle and Veggie Casserole recipe is a healthier twist on an old favorite that can likely be pulled together without an extra trip to the grocery store.
Tuna is the star protein in this recipe. Not only is it a good source of lean-protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but it also doesn’t get any easier to prepare. No defrosting or cooking necessary. Just crank open a couple of cans, drain the liquid, and sprinkle the tuna into the hot pasta… so easy! Canned tuna is relatively inexpensive, so it’s also light on your wallet.
What I love about this recipe is that it’s much healthier than standard tuna casserole. It’s much lower in fat, and is loaded with lots of colorful veggies, including kale, mushrooms, and peas (you can get creative and swap in your favorites, like carrots, peppers, or spinach). Instead of using gobs of cream and butter and a thickener (or canned creamed soup) to create a creamy sauce, a little bit of heart-healthy olive oil, reduced-fat milk, and a couple spoonfuls of whole wheat flour do the trick perfectly here. And because there are so many delicious fillings in this tuna casserole, you can actually ease up on the amount of noodles, which helps make this dish even better for you. Trust me, no one will be the wiser — especially when they’re digging into the crispy, golden brown breadcrumbs on the top!
- 4 oz. dry small whole wheat pasta shells
- 3 tsp. olive oil, divided use
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped kale
- 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
- 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
- 1 cup reduced-fat (2%) milk
- 1 cup low-sodium organic vegetable broth
- ½ tsp. sea salt (or Himalayan salt), divided use
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper, divided use
- 1½ cups frozen green peas
- 2 cans (6-oz. each) chunk light tuna, packed in water, drained
- ½ cup whole-grain panko bread crumbs
Here are your instructions:
Cook shells according to package directions; drain. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Heat 2 tsp. oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Add onion and kale; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
Add mushrooms; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.
Add remaining 1 tsp. oil; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
Add flour; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until flour and oil form a paste.
Slowly add milk, broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Add peas, tuna, and shells; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.
Place tuna mixture in a 2-quart baking dish. Top evenly with bread crumbs. Bake for 30 to 32 minutes, or until casserole is bubbling and brown.
Tip: For the best tuna casserole, stop cooking your noodles and drain them when they are still al dente (a little bit firm). They will continue to cook in the oven and absorb the flavors of the sauce without becoming mushy.