Tuna Noodle Casserole Goes to Finishing School

| January 28, 2011 | 3 Comments

How many boomers cut their culinary gourmet teeth on tuna noodle casserole? OK, hands down. I grew up making it and loving it, too. The Beaver and Wally must have enjoyed it, and I’m sure Samantha Stephens twitched one up occasionally for Tabitha when Darrin wasn’t looking. But how would Samantha serve it to Endora, whose tastes were anything but ordinary? Endora would probably turn up her nose at Samantha’s can of this and can of that, wave her arm, and out of rising smoke would appear something like La Cocotte Nouilles au Thon avec la Sauce de Mornay, Sherried Champignons Forestiers et l’Huile de Truffe Blanc. Whew!

The recipe we have been relying on for decades calls for canned tuna, cooked noodles, either cream of mushroom or celery soup, maybe some cheese and a topping of bread crumbs or potato chips. It was and still is stick-to-your-ribs comfort food.

My friend, Victoria Linton, recently asked how I would “gourmet up” a tuna noodle casserole. I immediately thought of our wonderful canned wild-caught albacore tuna available here and there in Oregon, which is several plateaus above ordinary canned tuna. Sorry, Charlie, this tuna not only tastes good but has good taste as well. So local canned tuna it will be, all dressed up with a Mornay sauce, sherried wild mushrooms, homemade breadcrumbs for a topping and drizzled with Oregon White Truffle Oil just before serving. Yu-um!

Tuna Noodle Casserole Ooh La La

Canned, wild-caught Oregon albacore tuna isn’t easy to find, even in Oregon, unless you canned it yourself or you’re on the coast. You can order it from Fishermen Direct in Gold Beach, Ore. Vic went fishing in Newport recently and purchased 2 7/5 ounce cans at South Beach Seafood Market for $5.50 each. “Chicken-of-the Sea” would be wonderful all gussied up like this too. Remember, though, your finished casserole will only be as good as the ingredients you use. I learned after this post went live that for local folks in Salem, Oregon, Fitt’s Seafood on 12th St stocks a local wild caught tuna from Garibaldi.


  1. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) unsalted butter
  2. 1 medium shallot, minced
  3. 3 celery ribs, minced
  4. 2-4 ounces (57-114 gr.) of wild mushrooms, thinly sliced (Iused dried, reconstituted morels, black trumpet and fresh shiitakes*)
  5. 1½ teaspoons (7.5 ml.) Worcestershire Sauce
  6. ¼ cup (60 ml.) reserved liquid from reconstituting mushrooms.
  7. 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) unsalted butter
  8. 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) all-purpose flour
  9. 2 cups (.5 lt.) warm milk
  10. 2 ounces (57 gr.) grated white cheddar cheese (I used Willamette Valley Cheddar)
  11. 2 ounces (57 gr.) grated Parmesan cheese
  12. ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml.) grated nutmeg
  13. Salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste
  14. 15 ounces (425 gr.) of good canned tuna
  15. 1 tablespoon (15 m.) dry sherry or more to taste
  16. 8-10 ounces (230-285 gr.) cooked fresh pasta noodles
  17. 3 slices of sandwich bread, dried and broken into small crumbs
  18. Olive oil for spraying bread crumbs
  19. White truffle oil for finishing (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 350 °F (175 °C)
  • Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pan and sauté the shallots for a few minutes. (Don’t let them turn brown.)
  • Add the celery and mushrooms to the pan and continue sautéing. Add a little more butter if needed.
  • Add the Worcestershire and sherry along with ¼ cup of the reserved liquid from reconstituting the dried mushrooms.
  • Simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  • Heat the 3 tablespoons of butter in a heavy saucepan.
  • Gradually add the flour while stirring constantly with a whisk until all is incorporated.
  • Slowly whisk in the warm milk and continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken and coats the whisk.
  • Whisk in the cheeses and nutmeg and stir until all is smooth again.
  • Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
  • Drain the tuna and add to a large bowl and, using a fork, break the fish into smaller pieces.
  • Add the sauce, the mushrooms and the noodles to the tuna and mix together.
  • Turn it all out in a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle with the bread crumbs.
  • Spray the top with olive oil and bake in the middle of the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the top is evenly browned. (I keep a little olive oil in a “mister” which you can find at stores that sell kitchen equipment.)
  • Pass the white truffle oil at the table.

* To reconstitute dried mushrooms, cover with very hot water and weigh down with something to keep them submerged.

Bon appétit, all you boomers,

— Charles

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Category: Seafood

About the Author (Author Profile)

Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities

Comments (3)

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  1. Now this is tuna casserole. Can’t wait to try it! Thank you. 🙂

  2. Heather Dickey says:

    YUMMM! Making this tonight! Looks and sounds incredible. Something mom, dad AND all the kids will love. Thanks

  3. Mel Wagner says:

    Yummy, Charles-it’s a combo of yummy tuna casserole and and adult mac and cheese!! I can’t wait to try this one either. Baby Booomers unite!

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