Table of Contents
  1. Why this recipe works.
  2. Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.
  3. Here’s how to make this recipe.
  4. These pro tips will make this recipe a success.
  5. Frequently asked questions about this recipe.
  6. You'll love these other casserole recipes.
  7. Watch how to make this recipe.
  8. Have I convinced you to make this recipe?
  9. One Pot Stovetop Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe

Made with all homemade ingredients, this tuna noodle casserole is made entirely in one pot all on the stovetop. Creamy cheese is combined with chunks of tuna, slightly sweet peas, and hearty pasta to create a delicious meal that can be ready in minutes. But it’s flavorful enough that it works for special occasions as well as a weeknight staple!

Why this recipe works.

I grew up thinking a casserole needed to involve multiple store-bought cans of soups. The soups would create the sauce that held the ingredients together. Those casseroles have their place and were quick meals when needed. The same principles can work with pantry ingredients for a quick meal. This tuna noodle casserole is full of nostalgia with the flavor turned up. The base of flavor is onion and celery cooked in butter. The noodles are cooked with the vegetables, stock, and heavy cream to lay the base for a creamy sauce. The secret to no canned soups is the Neufchâtel cheese. A small amount creates the perfect sauce. Lemon finishes the meal with brightness and brings out the individual ingredients for a perfectly cooked weeknight meal.

White marble surface with red Dutch oven filled with tuna noodle casserole with cheese melted on top with small bowl filled with bread crumbs.

Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.

  • Celery is cooked with onion for the base flavor of the casserole. The celery is used to add both underlying vegetal flavor and also maintain some texture.
  • Italian seasoning is a blend of dried herbs that quickly adds flavor. Instead of buying all the fresh herbs, the seasoning blend is always on hand.
  • Neufchâtel cheese is similar to cream cheese in America but has less fat. The tangy-sweet and creamy cheese quickly melts into the casserole and is a perfect way to finish the sauce.
  • Tuna is easy to store in the pantry and has a great flavor when using good quality tinned fish. Make sure to choose a sustainably caught tuna.
  • Pasta is traditionally egg noodles, but this recipe uses shells. The shells quickly cook and act like scoops to grab all the sauce.
White marble surface filled with all ingredients needed to prepare tuna noodle casserole including pasta, bread crumbs, tuna chunks, celery, onion, milk, cream, spices, and more.

Here’s how to make this recipe.

  1. Prepare the bread crumbs. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven with melted butter, add the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Stir while cooking until the mixture turns a deep brown color. Once fully cooked, remove from the pot. Use a paper towel to remove any remaining crumbs in the pot.
  1. Cook the onion, celery, and garlic. To the same pot, add butter and let it melt. While melting, dice the onion and roughly chop the celery. Add the onion and celery to the melted butter, along with salt and black pepper. Let the mixture cook for 4 to 6 minutes. When the onion and celery have browned slightly and have begun to become translucent, add the minced garlic and Italian seasoning. Let the garlic brown for 30 seconds to 1 minute before proceeding to the next step.
  1. Cook the pasta. To the pot, add the chicken stock, milk, and pasta. Stir everything together, cover the pot, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Once there is minimal liquid in the bottom of the pan, remove the lid and add the heavy cream, Neufchâtel cheese, and half of the shredded cheddar cheese. Let everything melt together for a few minutes.
  1. Add tuna and peas. Once the cheese has melted, add the lemon zest, peas, and tuna. Mix everything together, then sprinkle on the remaining shredded cheese and let it melt on top.
  1. Finish with breadcrumbs. Remove the pot from the heat and sprinkle on the cooked and slightly cooled bread crumbs and fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

These pro tips will make this recipe a success.

  • The bread crumb mixture will tend to burn relatively quickly if cooked for too long. When the mixture begins to smell toasty and take on a darker color, remove them from the heat and set them aside to cool. It’s also important to remove any remaining bread crumbs from the pan before beginning to cook the onions so that they do not continue to burn in the pan as everything else is cooked.
  • When it comes to garlic, the amount of time it is cooked is very important. Garlic can tend to have a raw flavor, so it’s important that it’s cooked slightly to reduce the rawness. But garlic is susceptible to burning quickly, so make sure not to cook the garlic for too long. About 30 seconds to one minute should be the right amount of time needed.
  • An easy way to see and collect the amount of lemon zest is to turn the grater upside down and run it over the top of the lemon. Rather than holding the grater steady and running the lemon over the top, switch it up and hold the lemon steady while moving the grater. All of the zest will collect in the grater and can then be visually measured.
Wooden spoon holding serving of tuna noodle casserole with pot filled with rest of casserole below topped with browned bread crumbs.

Frequently asked questions about this recipe.

Does this recipe have to be made in a Dutch oven?

No, this can be made in any saucepan or stovetop pan that has a lid.

Can this recipe be made vegetarian?

Yes, switch out the chicken stock for vegetable stock and omit the tuna. To add protein, try adding cannellini beans.

Does whole milk have to be used, or will lesser-fat milk work?

Less-fat milk can be used to cook the noodles. Whole milk will add more flavor and give more of a creamy texture, but any milk can work.

Is there a specific type of pasta that works well in this recipe?

Most pasta can work for this recipe. Traditionally egg noodles are used, and shells are used in this recipe but are easily substituted for a personal preference.

Will cream cheese work rather than Neufchâtel cheese?’’

Yes, cream cheese has more fat and will work instead of Neufchâtel cheese.

How long does this recipe last once cooked?

The leftovers will last for 7-10 days when stored in the refrigerator.

Can this be baked like a traditional casserole instead of being prepared on the stovetop?

Yes, once the noodles are cooked, the casserole can be completed and poured into a 9×13 baking dish. The casserole can be made a day ahead and baked to warm through and serve.

Glass bowl filled with browned bread crumbs with toasted tops.
These bread crumbs are so tasty that they could be devoured all on their own!

Watch how to make this recipe.

Have I convinced you to make this recipe?

I hope you make this recipe and put some food on your table. Leave a comment and share a star rating so you can let others know how much you love this recipe. This helps show others that this is a recipe they, too, can make, enjoy, and love!

Large Dutch oven filled with tuna noodle casserole topped with melted cheese, chopped parsley, and browned bread crumbs with wooden spoon resting in bowl.

One Pot Stovetop Tuna Noodle Casserole

5 from 13 votes
Made with all homemade ingredients, this tuna noodle casserole is made entirely in one pot all on the stovetop. Creamy cheese is combined with chunks of tuna, slightly sweet peas, and hearty pasta to create a delicious meal that can be ready in minutes. But it’s flavorful enough that it works for special occasions as well as a weeknight staple!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 stalks celery roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 3 cups pasta shells
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup Neufchâtel Cheese
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese shredded
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 5-oz cans tuna drained and flaked into pieces
  • 1 ¼ cups frozen peas thawed
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions
 

  • In a 4-6 quart saucepan, melt 1 tbsp butter over medium-low heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Stir and cook the breadcrumbs until they are browned, 4-6 minutes. Once cooked, remove the crumbs from the saucepan and set them aside to cool.
    3 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • In the same saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter. Once melted, add the onion, celery, salt, and black pepper. Sauté until the onion turns translucent and begins to soften, 4-6 minutes. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds.
    3 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 medium onion, 2 stalks celery, 1 tsp kosher salt, ½ tsp black pepper, 3 cloves garlic, 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Add the chicken stock and milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer and add the pasta. Cover and simmer until the pasta is cooked al dente, 8-10 minutes.
    2 cups chicken stock, 1 ½ cups whole milk, 3 cups pasta shells
  • Once the pasta is cooked, continue to simmer and add the heavy cream, Neufchâtel cheese, and half of the cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheeses are melted and smooth, 3 minutes.
    ½ cup heavy cream, ¼ cup Neufchâtel Cheese, 8 oz cheddar cheese
  • Add the lemon zest, tuna, and peas. Stir to combine and warm the peas, 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining shredded cheese, turn the heat off, cover, and allow the cheese to melt. Once melted, add the bread crumbs, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
    8 oz cheddar cheese, 2 tsp lemon zest, 2 5-oz cans tuna, 1 ¼ cups frozen peas, ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Notes

  • The bread crumb mixture will tend to burn relatively quickly if cooked for too long. When the mixture begins to smell toasty and take on a darker color, remove them from the heat and set them aside to cool. It’s also important to remove any remaining bread crumbs from the pan before beginning to cook the onions so that they do not continue to burn in the pan as everything else is cooked.
  • When it comes to garlic, the amount of time it is cooked is very important. Garlic can tend to have a raw flavor, so it’s important that it’s cooked slightly to reduce the rawness. But garlic is susceptible to burning quickly, so make sure not to cook the garlic for too long. About 30 seconds to one minute should be the right amount of time needed.
  • An easy way to see and collect the amount of lemon zest is to turn the grater upside down and run it over the top of the lemon. Rather than holding the grater steady and running the lemon over the top, switch it up and hold the lemon steady while moving the grater. All of the zest will collect in the grater and can then be visually measured.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 494kcal
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Difficulty Easy
Method Cooking

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Kaleb

I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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9 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This recipe is now going to replace my long time tuna noodle casserole. So much flavor! The topping is stellar. A real crowd pleaser.

  2. 5 stars
    My goodness! This is the best tuna noodle casserole dish I’ve ever tasted! It is worth every step and ingredients suggested. A definite dinner/lunch hit! OMG

  3. 5 stars
    Made tonight. Delicious. Instead of celery, used thinly cut carrots and had no heavy cream so used plain Greek yogurt. Used cream cheese too. The breadcrumbs were delicious. It was so good. Have leftovers for lunch!

  4. 5 stars
    I’m a tuna/pea lover this was a recipe for me! The first time I made it I had all the ingredients and it was fantastic! The second time I had to make a few adjustments and it still was fantastic!

  5. Thank you for this very favorful recipe! Don’t skip the topping, it adds a nice texture. I served with additional lemon wedges. Next time I make this, I am going to substitute either cooked cubed chicken or cooked shrimp or the tuna.

  6. 5 stars
    Just made this tonight for the first time. I was worried that there was too much liquid left after the pasta boiled, so I added more shredded cheese at the end to thicken it up. I also like dishes with a bit more flavor (and color), so I added a little paprika and a squirt of Dijon mustard. I used panko bread crumbs for the topping and that turned out really good.

  7. 5 stars
    This ain’t your mama’s Campbell’s tuna and noodle casserole. It’s so good that I am adding to my recipe rotation!!