Homemade Tuna Helper Creamy Pasta tastes better than the popular boxed dish you get at the grocery store. It makes a quick weeknight meal and our version is better for you because it is made with fresh ingredients!
We don’t even use canned soup in this and it is still a simple recipe. Not that there is anything wrong with canned soup. I just wanted this dish to be as healthy as possible. Also, making sauce is easier than you think. Really!
This classic American dish is definitely a family favorite. I like it because it tastes great, it is easy and it is healthier. Lee also likes it because there aren’t too many dishes (I cook, he cleans). This is also one of my youngest daughters favorite dishes. I found mixing tuna with pasta and a creamy sauce was a great way to get my kids to eat tuna. That’s what we do as moms, right?!
Fresh and frozen veggies and a few pantry staples are all that is needed to make this easy recipe. Plus a little bit of cheese of course!
Egg Noodles – we use No Yolks, Smart Pasta or whole wheat noodles. Whatever we have on hand. Lately it is more like whatever we can find. Supply chain issues are making it challenging to grocery shop these days.
Olive Oil – we use the light tasting or cooking type most of the time.
Yellow Onion – we buy the regular yellow onions that are inexpensive.
Carrots – we dice up some baby carrots because that is what we always have in the fridge.
Flour – regular ol’ all purpose flour works great.
Milk – we use whole milk in everything. Skim, 1%, or 2% will work but will result in a sauce that is slightly thinner.
Cream Cheese – this key ingredient is what makes it so creamy! Full fat or 1/3 less fat will work.
Dijon Mustard – I use the smooth type for this. I have not tried the grainy variety.
Frozen Sweet Peas & Corn – I keep a bag of each of these on hand at all times to use in different dishes.
Canned Tuna Fish – we always buy the type that is packed in water. I have a favorite brand that I always keep on hand. It is flaked light tuna, you can use solid white albacore tuna if you would like.
Parmesan Cheese – it comes already shredded or in a block. We prefer the type in the block.
Salt & Black Pepper – regular or Kosher salt will work.
This skillet tuna noodle casserole is very quick and easy to make.
- Cook noodles al dente according to package directions; drain.
- Meanwhile heat a large oven proof skillet over medium heat. Add oil, onion and carrots to the pan and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, turn heat up and cook until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium and add cream cheese, mustard, salt and pepper.
- Stir in peas and corn, half the cheese and drained tuna, mix until combined. Stir in pasta and heat until hot, stirring occasional.
- Top with remaining cheese and put under the broiler until cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
If you don’t have an oven proof skillet then pour the mixture into a casserole dish, baking dish or large pot such as a Dutch oven. I would coat it with cooking spray for easier clean up. I have read before that you can put aluminum foil on a plastic handle to make it oven proof, this is NOT recommended. There is a great article about it at World of Pans.
If the pasta gets done before you are ready for it drain it and keep it in a pot of cool water. Then drain it again and add it after the frozen vegetables. Make sure everything is hot before topping it with cheese and putting it under the broiler. If the pasta gets done after the sauce is ready then keep the sauce warm on low heat until the pasta is done.
One of the hardest parts of cooking any meal is timing everything to get done at around the same time. It gets easier the more you cook.
Substitutions & Additions:
Canola oil, vegetable oil or melted butter can be used instead of olive oil.
Other topping ideas are bread crumbs, crushed Ritz crackers or potato chips.
Replace some of the peas and corn with green beans.
Instead of fresh carrots you could use frozen carrots, just add them when you add the other frozen veggies.
Use sharp cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan for a different cheesy flavor.
Storage and Reheating:
Store Homemade Tuna Helper Creamy Pasta in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
We reheat it on a plate in the microwave, one minute then take it out, mix it up and pop it back in for another minute. Of course microwaves vary greatly so find what works best in your microwave.
We hope you like this modernized version of this classic recipe as much as we do. It really doesn’t take that much time to make and you can feel good about the quality dishes you are putting on your dinner table.
More easy comfort food recipes:
Hamburger Helper Cheesy Italian Shells
Alfredo Chicken Pasta & Broccoli
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Homemade Tuna Helper Creamy Pasta
- 8 ounces wide egg noodles
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup yellow onion chopped
- 1/3 cup carrot diced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 3/4 cups milk
- 4 ounces cream cheese 1/3 less fat
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/2 cup frozen corn
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese divided
- 2 cans tuna in water drained and flaked (5 ounce)
- Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Put oil in the pan and cook the onion and carrot for about 6 minutes or until carrot is almost tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in milk, raise heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk until slightly thick.
- Stir in cream cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Preheat broiler.
- Reduce heat to medium, stir in peas, corn, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and tuna. Add pasta and heat through. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
- Broil 3 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Classic Tuan Noodle Casserole recipe adapted from MyRecipes and Cooking Light.
I really like this recipe. My family did too. Well the ones who like Tuna. I added more tuna the second time to beef it up around because I have growing boys
Mindy Boyd says
We are so glad you and your family liked it. It is good with extra tuna, we do that sometimes too! Thanks, Mindy
Jenifer Gardner says
Our stores quit carrying the creamy version and only had the cheesy. Hubby wouldn’t eat the other. We love this and will make it a lot
Mindy Boyd says
So glad you and the hubby like it! Thanks,
Amber Rock says
I added some panko crumbs that I fried for a minute or so in oil on top to add some texture! Great recipe, Mindy! Reminds me of home:)
Mindy Boyd says
Crystal Smith says
I made this last night, my family and I loved it!
I was so glad to find a recipe that doesn’t use canned soup. The cream cheese adds such a nice flavour and texture to the sauce.
I added some thyme and sage to the cooked carrot/onion and flour mixture- it was lovely! Your recipe is going in to my collection!
Mindy Boyd says
We are so glad you liked it! We love the cream cheese in it too. Thank you
Amanda Despain says
Great way to layout this recipe. Fantastic. However no cream cheese. How to sub?.
Mindy Boyd says
You could puree some cottage cheese or use greek yogurt, maybe? It might change the texture a little, I’m not sure. You could leave it out, I will sometimes just leave an ingredient out of a recipes if I don’t have it or if I don’t like a particular ingredient.
I need to eat healthier because I have kidney disease and need to avoid preservatives. I also need to lose weight and increase my omega 3 oils. I plan to substitute salmon for tuna because salmon is much higher in omega 3 oils. I will try it soon.
My family loves your recipe! We make it about once a month. Our only change is to add mushrooms (chopped and cooked with the onions and carrots). Thank you for adapting this recipe!
Mindy Boyd says
That’s awesome. We like mushrooms too so I’ll have to give it a try. Thank you!