This delicious Tuna Noodle Casserole is made from scratch with a delicious creamy white sauce, pasta, peas, tuna, celery, and crushed crackers on top. It’s always a hit at our dinner table!

Tuna Noodle Casserole served in a white casserole dish with a wooden spoon.

This tuna noodle casserole is leaps and bounds tastier than memories you have of old-fashioned tuna casserole.

Rather than using canned “cream of soup” it’s made with a simple white sauce from scratch using flour, butter, chicken broth and milk. Peas, celery and onion are sautéed to give a boost of flavor. I used medium shell pasta for the noodles because I like the size and how each shell can fill with creamy sauce. You could substitute egg noodles or another type of bite-size pasta.

Be sure to use high-quality tuna as it will really makes a flavor difference. Choose good quality solid white albacore tuna; it may cost a dollar more than the cheaper brands, but trust me, your tastebuds will thank you!

How to make Tuna Noodle Casserole:

  • Cook the noodles.
  • Sauté the veggies.  Sauté celery, onion, peas and garlic in melted butter.
  • Make the sauce.  Melt butter, add flour and stir.  Whisk in the chicken broth and milk.  Stir constantly until it thickens and is bubble.  Add salt, dill, lemon juice, parsley, and parmesan cheese.
Process photos for making tuna noodle casserole including a skillet with peas, onion and celery sautéing in it and another photo of a white cream sauce in the skillet with a wooden spoon.
  • Combine. Add pasta, vegetables, and tuna to the sauce and stir to combine.
Overhead photo of a skillet with cooked medium shells noodles, tuna, a creamy white sauce and peas to make tuna noodle casserole.
  • Pour the mixture into a baking dish.
  • Top with cheese and crushed crackers.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Two overhead photos of a white casserole dish with tuna noodle casserole in it, one without the cracker topping and the other of the casserole after it's been baked.

Topping Variations:

  • Ritz crackers or your favorite butter or saltine crackers
  • Potato chips
  • Cornflakes
  • Breadcrumbs
Close up photo of a bowl of tuna casserole with shell noodles and a spoon.

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: Cook the noodles, sauté the vegetables, and make the sauce. Store everything separately until ready to assemble, and bake.

To Freeze: Undercook the noodles slightly. Assemble the dish in a freezer-safe container (I like to use a disposable aluminum pan) but don’t top with crushed crackers. Allow to cool completely then cover tightly with and freezer for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Top with crushed crackers and cheese before baking. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serve with:

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Recipe

Tuna noodle casserole with peas and a cracker crumb topping, served in a white bowl with a hand towel next to it.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces medium-size shell pasta*
  • 4 Tablespoons butter , divided
  • 1 rib celery , diced
  • 1/4 cup onion , diced
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1 clove garlic , miced
  • 4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 14.5 ounce can low-sodium chicken broth (just under 2 cups), warmed
  • 1 cup milk , warmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice , more if desired
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley leaves , minced
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese , divided
  • 5 ounces canned albacore white tuna, packed in water , more if desired

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup Ritz crackers* , crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon butter , melted

Instructions
 

  • Cook the noodles just until al dente, according to package instructions.
  • Sauté the veggies: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet.  Add celery, onion, peas and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.
  • Make Sauce: Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter to the pan. Once melted and the flour and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk, stirring constantly until smooth.  Bring mixture to a low simmer.
  • Stir constantly until thickened and bubbly, 2-3 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add salt, dill, lemon juice, parsley, and ½ cup Parmesan cheese.  Taste sauce and season with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice, to taste.
  • Combine: Remove from heat and stir in the pasta, vegetables and tuna.  Pour mixture into a 9x13’’ or similar size baking dish.  Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup of parmesan cheese.
  • Add topping: Crush ritz crackers and add melted butter. Sprinkle mixture over the casserole.
  • Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

Tuna: Choose good quality canned solid white albacore tuna. It's may be a little more expensive but will make all the difference in taste.
Pasta: I like the medium shell pasta because I like the size and how each shell can fill with creamy sauce. You could substitute egg noodles or another type of bite-size pasta.
Cracker Topping: you could also use crushed potato chips, breadcrumbs, cornflakes or your favorite crackers.
Make Ahead Instructions: Cook the noodles, sauté the vegetables, and make the sauce. Store everything separately until ready to assemble, and bake.
Freezing Instructions: Undercook the noodles slightly. Assemble the dish in a freezer-safe container (I like to use a disposable aluminum pan) but don't top with crushed crackers. Allow to cool completely then cover tightly with and freezer for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Top with crushed crackers and cheese before baking. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serve with:

Nutrition

Calories: 424kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 21gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 616mgPotassium: 358mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 785IUVitamin C: 10.6mgCalcium: 264mgIron: 1.8mg

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Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites.

I originally shared this recipe October 2018. Updated April 2021.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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  1. 5 stars
    This was so yummy. Loved the dill and lemon. We just couldn’t stop eating it. I made according to directions but added a couple shots of our favorite hot sauce which I do to most our meals. We like it a little spicy. Thank you for this nice fresh update. Not your mothers tuna casserole!

  2. 5 stars
    We are a large family, so I double the recipe to accommodate a 1 lb box of shells. Was a hit with everyone and will definitely be putting it into rotation!

  3. 5 stars
    This was the best tuna noodle hot dish I’ve tried, and I have been looking the last 3 years since becoming vegetarian. I adapted with veggie broth, added a can of tuna, used half milk and ‘half and half’, and used crushed club crackers for the topping. My 6yo kept saying “wow, mommy, you made this?” And “this is so amazing”! Winner!

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