If you’re looking for a delicious, filling weeknight dinner my Mediterranean Tuna Casserole is guaranteed to bring smiles to your dinner table! This is comfort food at its best and truly one of my favorite casserole recipes.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, I’ve never made a tuna noodle casserole before. And I’ve also never tasted a tuna casserole before and I certainly didn’t think of developing a tuna casserole recipe!
That’s right I was a food snob when it came to tuna casseroles.
But I’ve definitely seen the light! One of my greatest pleasures in life is when I make something that is so delicious that it surprises me, and that was the case with this ah-mazingly delicious dish. I devoured that plateful of deliciousness and more!
This isn’t a classic tuna casserole, it’s taken it to an entirely new level of deliciousness.
We reheated the leftovers for dinner on day two and if possible it was even tastier! So now I can proudly proclaim I like Tuna Casseroles (the ones I make, anyway).
Let’s start by gathering the ingredients we need to make my Tuna Casserole. In Chef Speak, this is called the “Mise en Place,” which translates to “Everything in its Place”.
Not only does setting your ingredients up ahead of time speed up the cooking process, it also helps ensure you have everything you need to make the dish.
*Grated Romano shown in pic is for the white sauce. White sauce ingredients will follow.
What type of tuna should I use?
I prefer albacore tuna, but with all the mixed messages about which type of tuna is healthiest. The problem with albacore is that larger and more mature tuna accumulate higher levels of mercury and other toxic elements. Younger and smaller species like skipjack (chunk light) tend to have less mercury and toxins simply because they are as old as the larger albacore tuna.
That being said if you are an occasional tuna eater it won’t have as much of an impact on what type you use. Tuna lovers may need to reconsider their choice or look for tuna that’s tested before canning.
How to make Bechamel Sauce
Let’s start by making the white sauce aka bechamel for the tuna casserole.
Learning to make a bechamel will be a game-changer, and will allow you to make so many more delicious dishes. It can be used for mac and cheese, a base for cream soups, gravies and sauces that will make you look like a chef in your kitchen.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and the flour to the pan
- Using a wire whisk, blend the flour and butter together, this is a roux.
- Let the roux cook over low heat for 5 minutes, this will cook out the flour taste.
- Add the chicken broth to the roux and mix it together (not pictured). This is your basic white sauce.
- Add the milk, grated Romano cheese and seasonings to the sauce and mix well.
The end result will be this creamy sauce, known as bechamel (one of the 5 mother sauces). If it’s too thick, add a little more milk or water to the sauce (if you’re feeling decadent, a little heavy cream can be added).
Most recipes use cream of mushroom soup or cream of celery soup in their casserole recipe. You can of course, go that route instead of making your own sauce, but I promise the results are worth the effort, and you get to control the ingredients.
Place the bechamel off to the side until you’ve finished preparing the remainder of the ingredients.
How to make a Mediterranean Style Tuna Casserole
Start by sauteing the chopped onions and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes (feel free to use your favorite type of fresh mushrooms in the recipe).
While the mushrooms are cooking and you’re prepping the other ingredients, cook the pasta for the dish. This is all about timing, and while it’s not critical, having the pasta done when the rest of the ingredients are ready, will keep you from rinsing the pasta or letting it get clumpy from sitting too long.
Chef Dennis Tip:
Cook the pasta al dente. It will cook more while in the oven.
- Place the pasta in a casserole dish and add the mushroom-onion mixture, cherry tomatoes, and juice from the can, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, artichokes, basil and parsley. Mix the ingredients together. You can use a large bowl to mix the ingredients together.
- Add the tuna to the pasta mixture, and blend it into the pasta.
- Add the bechamel to the casserole.
- Lightly mix the sauce in. It does not have to be completely mixed.
Bake the Tuna Casserole in a 350-degree preheated oven for 20 -25 minutes.
I like how pasta gets a little crunchy around the edges from being exposed to the heat, but if you’re not a fan, cover the dish with aluminum foil to keep all the pasta moist.
Carefully remove the casserole from the oven and add shredded mozzarella (or shredded cheddar cheese) and sprinkle chopped parsley on top of the casserole. Return the casserole to the oven for an additional 5-7 minutes until the cheese is nicely melted.
I had thought about adding gorgonzola crumbles to the dish for added flavor. You could also use feta or bleu cheese crumbles. Be creative with the casserole by adding your favorite ingredients to my easy tuna casserole.
Zucchini, roasted red peppers, and eggplant would make delicious additions. And if you can’t find canned cherry tomatoes, stew tomatoes would be a tasty substitute.
*You could make this dish with egg noodles if you like for a more traditional tuna noodle casserole, adding a little panko bread crumbs to the top.
However, you decide to customize your Tuna Casserole I promise you it will bring smiles to your dinner table.
Serve this delicious dish with grated Romano or parmesan cheese and black pepper for the ultimate flavor sensation.
The most common reason your tuna casserole was too dry is simply there wasn’t enough liquid in the dish. The noodles absorbed what liquid there was and as it baked it dried out. You may also be using a baking dish that’s too large for the amount of casserole you have.
If you’re worried about the casserole drying out cover it with foil while baking. Remove the foil and add the cheese, then bake until the cheese is melted.
Yes, you cook the pasta before adding it to the casserole. Cook the pasta al dente (still firm) before combining it with the other ingredients. If it says cook for 9-12 minutes, cook for 9 minutes. Always take the lower number of minutes for al dente pasta.
No, rinsing the pasta will remove starch from the cooked pasta, and the sauce will not cling or absorb into the pasta properly. Try to plan the combining of ingredients so when the pasta is done you can add the rest of the ingredients and sauce.
Tuna casserole will last 2-3 days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container. You can also freeze tuna casserole for up to 2-3 months. Make the casserole, then freeze it uncooked.