Tuna casserole was a menu mainstay when I was growing up. It was easy to make (the ingredients were always on hand), and we never questioned its frequent appearance on the dinner table. Unfortunately, my own kids were not impressed with this old-school dish.
But that changed when I tweaked the recipe a bit (see ya, egg noodles and dry breadcrumbs!), added a crunchy topping (hello, potato chips!), and served my very picky eaters this fun-to-prepare recipe in adorable muffin-size cups.
Feel free to sub farfalle or rotelli for the shells; use all peas, or no vegetables; or whip up a version using cream of chicken or cream of celery soup instead. Refrigerate leftovers and offer them for snacks the next day.
What Kids Learn
- A single tuna can weigh as much as 550 pounds!
- At their fastest, tuna can swim 16 miles an hour.
- Tuna is the second most popular fish for Americans—after shrimp.
White-Hot Tuna Tips
- Serve this updated casserole with a side of green salad, sliced peaches, clementines, or cherry tomatoes with ranch dip for extra color.
- For larger portions, divide the mixture into 14 muffin cups.
- You also can bake this in a 2-quart casserole dish for 45 minutes—or just heat it up in a large pot on your cooktop or stove.
What You’ll Need
- Cooking spray for the muffin tins
- 1 (12-ounce) box pasta shells (or use your kid’s favorite shape of noodle)
- 1 (10-ounce) box frozen peas and carrots
- 2 (6-ounce) cans albacore tuna, packed in water, drained
- 2 (10½-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Garlic salt and onion salt, optional and to taste (about ½ to 1 teaspoon works well)
- ½ cup crushed potato chips
What to Do
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Show your little helper how to lightly spray the muffin tins with cooking spray. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the shells according to package directions. Drain into a colander and set aside.
- Let your child open the package of peas and carrots and place them in a medium glass bowl. Next, she can pour about ½ cup of water over the vegetables. Cover the bowl with a plate and place it in the microwave oven.Teachable Moment: Deep-Sea Tuna Facts
- When we talk about tuna, it sounds as if there is only one kind. Actually, there are many species of tuna including yellowfin, skipjack, bigeye, albacore, bonito, tongol, northern bluefin, and southern bluefin.
- Since it comes in tiny cans, you’d think tuna is a small fish. However, many species of tuna can grow to weigh as much as 550 pounds. That’s about 6.5 feet of fish!
- Because they get their oxygen from the water, tuna need to swim constantly in order to keep up a fresh supply of air. At their fastest, they can swim 16 miles an hour.
- Most tuna are carnivorous, meaning they eat other animals rather than plants. Their favorite meals are other fish, shellfish, and squid.
- Cook the vegetables on high for about 5 minutes or until done. Drain into a colander and set aside to cool.
- Place the tuna on a medium plate. Show your child how to flake it with a fork, until it is in bite-size pieces.Teachable Moment: Americans and the “Tunaverse”
- Tuna is the second most popular seafood in the U.S. (The most popular is shrimp!)
- Today, so much tuna is eaten in America that it averages out to about 2.2 pounds per person!
- Most of that is eaten on sandwiches (about 55%). The runners up for most popular tuna dishes are salads (22%) and casseroles (15.5%) like this one!
- Most of the tuna that gets sold in cans and used in casseroles like this one is either skipjack or albacore.
- Transfer the shells to a large mixing bowl. Add the cream of mushroom soup or let your child scoop it out of the cans and into the mixing bowl, and add the flaked tuna and the drained vegetables. Have her stir the mixture well. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. (You can also add a little garlic or onion powder if you feel adventurous!)
- Divide the mixture into 18 muffin tins. Let your child sprinkle each cup with some crushed potato chips. Bake for 30 minutes or until the casserole is steaming hot.