A tuna noodle casserole is a baked dish made with canned tuna and egg noodles, in addition to peas or chopped vegetables. A rich gravy or sauce is typically used to flavor the casserole. For the sauce, many people use canned condensed soup, such as cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, or cream of celery. In addition, a topping may be added when baking a tuna noodle casserole, giving it a crunchy texture. When baking casseroles, a deep glass or stoneware pot known as a casserole dish is used.
Some cooks prefer to use bread crumbs to top a tuna noodle casserole. The bread crumbs are typically made from day-old bread or croutons, although they may be store bought as well. Grated Parmesan cheese is often added to the casserole before it is baked in the oven. Alternately, grated cheese may be added after the entree is served.
Although frozen peas are most commonly used for a tuna noodle casserole, drained canned peas may be used in a pinch. Canned peas may become soggy or mashed when cooked, however. In addition, grated or finely chopped carrots are often added to the tuna noodle casserole before baking.
Before baking the tuna noodle casserole, bread crumbs may be sauteed in a tablespoon of butter. Fried bread crumbs add more of a crunchy texture to the casserole. Additionally, bread crumbs that are seasoned with minced garlic or ground pepper may be used for added flavor.
All tuna noodle casseroles call for using some type of egg noodles. Generally, wide or broad egg noodles are used. Many cooks recommend the egg noodles be slightly undercooked before being baked in the casserole. Overcooked noodles tend to stick together and not have the crispy texture of a casserole.
Most tuna noodle casseroles include only a few basic ingredients, although there are variations. In general, casseroles are baked in a standard oven for at least 20 minutes. Preparing a tuna noodle casserole in a microwave oven is an alternate method. Although this method may require less cooking time, the microwave casserole dish may not have the crunchy texture, typical of an oven baked meal.
Another variation for this type of casserole calls for shredded cheddar cheese instead of grated Parmesan. Some people also prefer to add cooked mushrooms to the tuna casserole. French fried onions from a can may be added for extra crunch.