Nostalgia has been at an all-time high lately, especially when it comes to music and food that influenced my early years. All of the extra time I’ve had in the kitchen has led me to asking Alexa to “play ’90s pop music” or “play classic country”, while I explore recipes I haven’t touched in years.
Among those recipes is this Tuna Noodle Casserole, a childhood favorite I haven’t thought about – let alone eat – for many years, maybe a couple of decades.
I grew up in Kansas, where casserole was king at our dinner table. Perfectly placed tater tots or crushed up (on purpose) potato chips served as the finishing touch for many recipes in the Dunn household.
My version is a take on what I grew up eating, with some added veggies for heft. This whole Tuna Noodle Casserole spiral inspired me to dig a little deeper into the history of the dish – one I always assumed was associated with the Campbell Soup Company as a way to sell more canned Cream of Mushroom soup.
It turns out that version from the early 1940s – made famous in Midwest households like mine for the following several decades – was likely inspired by the first-known recipe, published a decade earlier. A “Noodles and Tuna Fish en Casserole” – that sounds so much fancier – recipe was published in 1930 in Sunset Magazine and was credited to “Mrs. W.F.S.” from right here in Washington State.
Several other versions of the dish were published in magazines and cookbooks, especially on the West Coast, throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The more well-known Campbell’s recipe came out a handful of years after the company’s release of Cream of Mushroom soup in 1934.
That same canned soup is one of the key ingredients I used to build the creamy base of this dish that instantly takes me back to the dining room table where there was likely a cassette from The Oak Ridge Boys or Reba McEntire playing in the background.
- 12 ounces egg noodles
- 2 cans (10 ounces) tuna
- 2 cans (21 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
- 1 jar (4 ounces) diced pimentos
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- ½ cup finely diced celery
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 1 cup milk
- ¾ cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Add two cans cream of mushroom soup and 1 cup milk to a large bowl, whisking to combine. Stir in onion, celery, pimentos (drained) and frozen peas.
Drain canned tuna and break up into the bowl. Fold in cooked noodles, season with salt and pepper and pour into a 3-quart casserole dish.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter and stir in ½ cup breadcrumbs. Sprinkle topping evenly over the casserole. Bake in a preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until topping is crispy and casserole is bubbly.