For an easy dinner idea, make this Cheesy Tuna Casserole Recipe with shell pasta, broccoli florets, Monterey jack cheese, and crushed barbecue chips.
When you’re craving comfort food and are short on time, this Cheesy Tuna Casserole recipe is just what you need!
Pasta – My All-Time Favorite Food
Pasta dishes are my all-time favorite kind of food to eat. I love it in all its various forms – macaroni, spaghetti, cavatappi, penne, rigatoni… I could go on and on, but you’re probably already drooling a little bit on your computer keyboard or electronic device just thinking about all that delicious pasta. I know I am.
Needless to say, I was thrilled when Ashlyn from Belle of the Kitchen agreed we should trade pasta recipes for our monthly Ideas for the Kitchen exchange in April. If you haven’t seen the Skillet Lasagna recipe she shared a few weeks ago, you ought to check it out!
What you need:
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Kitchen tools needed:
These are the ingredients you’ll need. All the exact amounts are in the printable card at the bottom of this post.
- Small shell pasta
- Cream of celery soup
- Frozen broccoli florets
- Canned tuna
- Shredded monterey jack cheese
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Barbecue chips
This Recipe is Adapted from Kent’s Childhood
When my husband, Kent and I first got married we talked a lot about food and the recipes we enjoyed growing up. My absolute favorite food in the whole wide world is my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs. Kent said one of his best food memories as a child was his mother’s tuna casserole recipe. Most of the time you find a tuna casserole recipe is made with egg noodles, cream based soups, peas, and breadcrumbs. What made Kent’s mother’s tuna casserole recipe extra special though was that she topped it with crushed barbecue chips.
Over our eight years of marriage, I’ve adapted the classic tuna casserole recipe to incorporate flavors we both enjoy. For example, I can’t stand peas so I’ve replaced them with broccoli florets in our tuna casserole recipe. I also use whatever kind of pasta we have on hand in the cupboard and don’t necessarily limit our tuna casserole recipe to egg noodles. For the recipe I’m sharing today I actually used shell pasta and also threw in Monterey jack cheese along with the cream of celery soup and a splash of milk.
The one thing I have not changed though is the crushed barbecue chips. Kent is absolutely insistent that tuna casserole needs to be topped with barbecue chips just like his mom’s. I can’t say that I blame him. The barbecue chips add some extra flavor and crunch that really can’t be beat!
Other Ways to Make Tuna Casserole
This casserole is baked in the oven. Here are some other ways you can make tuna casserole too:
- Slow Cooker – Combine everything except the broccoli, chips, and noodles in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Add frozen broccoli during last 10 minutes. Pour everything into a casserole dish, top with BBQ chips, and bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees.
- Instant Pot – Place pasta in the Instant pot cover with water. Put tuna, frozen broccoli, and other ingredients on top of the pasta. Close lid and place on Manual High Pressure for 4 minutes. Do a quick release. Stir in cheese. Place in a baking dish and cover with chips under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.
- Stove Top- You will use a cast iron skillet for this version. First, in a large pot, boil the noodles. Drain. Add noodles to a cast iron skillet with the rest of the ingredients (except the chips). Cook covered on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes. Add crushed BBQ chips and broil in oven for 5 minutes.
How to Freeze Tuna Casserole
You will want to make this in a disposable aluminum casserole dish. Prepare it without the BBQ chips and without baking it. Cover it tightly with a lid. When you are ready to make it, bake it at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Remove, add the crushed chips, and bake for another 5 minutes.
Cheesy Tuna Casserole Recipe With Barbecue Chips
- Large Pot
- 9 x 9 inch Glass Baking Dish
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Boil the shell pasta for 4 minutes. Add 1 cup of frozen broccoli florets, cook for 4 more minutes. Drain and rinse in a colander.
- In a lightly greased 9 x 9 glass baking dish, combine the cream of celery soup, milk, shell pasta, broccoli, tuna, shredded cheese and spices.
- Bake the Cheesy Tuna Casserole at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Top with crushed barbecue chips. Bake 5 minutes more. Serve and enjoy!
How to Enjoy This as Leftovers
To enjoy this Cheesy Tuna Casserole recipe as leftovers a day or two after you’ve had it for dinner. Simply crush up some extra barbecue chips and sprinkle them over the top after you’ve microwaved the leftover pasta on high for a minute or two. The original barbecue chips get soft from being in the refrigerator, but you won’t even notice once you’ve sprinkled fresh ones on the Cheesy Tuna Casserole.
For more easy recipes, check out these other Easy Dinner Ideas!
Cheesy Tuna Casserole Recipe Serving Suggestions
We recommend serving the Cheesy Tuna Casserole recipe with a side salad and garlic bread. At our house, we like to also serve it with a handful of extra barbecue chips to dip into the Cheesy Tuna Casserole.
If you want you can prepare the Cheesy Tuna Casserole recipe the night before and store it covered overnight in the refrigerator. This will give you an easy weeknight meal you can pop right into the oven. Just don’t put the barbecue chips on it until it says to do so later in the recipe or they’ll get soggy.
Here are a few other tips and suggestions to help you enjoy this Cheesy Tuna Casserole recipe:
- For a little added crunch, add 1/2 cup of chopped celery or green pepper to the Cheesy Tuna Casserole recipe before you bake it.
- You could also double or triple the amount of broccoli florets used in the Cheesy Tuna Casserole recipe to increase your veggie intake.
- To give the Cheesy Tuna Casserole recipe some additional flavor, you could saute onions and mushrooms to add prior to baking it.
- If you can’t find shredded monterey jack cheese in your grocery store, use colby-jack cheese, cheddar-jack cheese or one of the other jack cheese blends. You could even replace the monterey jack cheese with shredded pepper jack cheese to spice the Cheesy Tuna Casserole recipe up a few notches.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy pasta? Please comment below and share. We’re always looking for new ideas – especially ideas that involve pasta!
More Pasta Recipes
While you’re here, be sure to check out other pasta recipes on Ideas for the Home by Kenarry® –
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Originally published April 2016. Updated April 2018.