tuna noodle casserole with olives & spinach

I’ll be honest, I really wasn’t sure I was going to post this recipe because it ended up being a lot more “involved” than I expected. But, after eating it for lunch and then wanting more once I got home from work, I figured all of the work and dirty dishes were worth it!

This recipe for Grown-Up Tuna Noodle Casserole landed in my mailbox courtesy of Thekitchn.com the other day and it looked so yummy that I thought I’d give it a shot. The only tuna noodle casserole that I’ve ever had was super creamy, rich, and gooey. I’m pretty sure there were a few cans of “cream of” soup in there. This casserole is not that. It uses a real, homemade white sauce (bechamel) and real mushrooms instead of the canned stuff. It’s creamy, but not so much that it sits like a rock in the bottom of your stomach. I used The Kitchn recipe as a guide, but kinda winged it from there.

I had some leftover ingredients that I wanted to use up, so I tossed in some frozen spinach and kalamata olives. They’re completely optional, but I love how they work in this dish. The spinach adds veggie goodness and balances the heaviness, while the kalamata olives add a pop of saltiness. The Kitchn version uses capers instead of olives, but for the same effect.

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Olives & Spinach

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Spinach & Olives

4.88 from 8 votes
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tuna noodle casserole with olives & spinach

A grown up take on the classic tuna noodle casserole with salty olives and fresh spinach.

Total Cost $11.07 recipe / $1.23 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 9

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.32
  • 1 small onion $0.36
  • 8 oz button mushrooms $1.99
  • 4 cloves garlic $0.32
  • 2 Tbsp butter $0.17
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour $0.03
  • 3 cups milk $1.11
  • 1 tsp salt $0.05
  • 1/2 tsp thyme $0.03
  • freshly cracked pepper to taste $0.05
  • 12 oz wide egg noodles $1.20
  • 2-5 oz cans chunk light tuna $1.00
  • 1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach $0.75
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives $1.99
  • 1/2 cup sour cream $0.44
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese $0.84
  • 1/4 cup parmesan for topping (optional) $0.42

Instructions

  1. Add the olive oil to a large pot. Dice the onion and saute the onion in the olive oil over medium-low heat. While the onion is cooking, thinly slice the mushrooms. Add them to the pot and continue to saute. Mince the garlic, add it to the pot, and continue to saute until the mushrooms and onions have released all of their water and become limp. There should be no water pooled on the bottom of the pot.
  2. Add the butter to the pot and allow it to melt. When it is completely melted, add the flour. Stir the flour and butter together with the onions, mushrooms, and garlic. The mixture will form a thick paste. Continue to stir and cook this mixture for 3-4 minutes, or until it begins to coat the bottom of the pot and turn slightly golden brown.
  3. Warm the milk slightly in the microwave (or in a separate pot if needed). Slowly whisk the milk into the pot with the flour mixture, making sure to dissolve all of the flour stuck to the bottom of the pot. Turn the heat up to medium-high and allow the sauce to come up to a simmer, at which point it will begin to thicken. Make sure to whisk the mixture occasionally as it heats. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, and thyme. Once the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, turn the heat off and set it aside.
  4. Bring a separate large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and continue to let it boil for 7-10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Drain the pasta, then return it to the pot with the heat turned off.
  5. Begin to preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Thaw the spinach and squeeze as much moisture out of it as possible. Roughly chop the olives. Add the spinach, olives, drained tuna, sour cream, and a 1/2 cup of grated parmesan to the pot with the drained pasta. Pour the prepared mushroom sauce over top and stir everything together until evenly combined.
  6. Lightly coat an 8×8 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Pour the pasta mixture into the dish. If desired, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese over top. Bake the casserole in the fully preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until it is hot, bubbly, and the parmesan begins to turn golden brown. Divide into 9 portions and then serve.

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Spinach & Olives

Step By Step Photos

vegetables
Begin by cooking these in olive oil. Dice the onion and add it first, since it will take the longest to cook down. Slice the mushrooms while the onion is cooking, then add them and continue to cook. Finally, mince the garlic, add it to the pot, and continue to cook until most of the moisture has cooked out of the mixture.

cook veggies
Cook them all in a large pot over medium/medium-low heat. You’ll know when most of the moisture has cooked off because there will no longer be pools of liquid on the bottom of the pot, the amount of steam coming off of the vegetables will have reduced, and the sound of the saute will get higher in pitch.

roux
Once most of the water has cooked off of the vegetables, add the butter and let it melt in. Once the butter has melted, stir in the flour. Let it form a paste with the other ingredients and then continue to stir and cook it for 3-4 minutes, or until it coats the bottom of the pot and turns a slightly golden brown color.

whisk in milk
Warm the milk slightly (microwave is easiest) and then slowly whisk it into the pot. Make sure to dissolve all of the floury paste off of the bottom of the pot. Increase the heat slightly and allow the sauce to come up to a simmer, at which point it will thicken.

season sauce
Once the sauce has thickened, season it with salt, pepper, and thyme. Turn the heat off and set the sauce aside.

boil pasta
In a separate pot, cook the pasta according to the package directions. If you’re good at multi-tasking, you can do this while you’re making the sauce.

squeeze spinach
Thaw the spinach and squeeze out as much water as possible. I like to buy the chopped spinach that comes frozen in a bag rather than in a block. It retains its texture much better. This clump was half of a one pound bag, but once squeeze dried it only fills one fist!

combine
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. After draining the pasta return it to the pot with the heat turned off. Add the squeeze dried spinach, chopped kalamata olives, drained tuna, sour cream, and a half cup of grated parmesan. Pour the mushroom sauce over top of all of that and stir everything together until combined.

ready to bake
Pour the pasta mixture into an 8×8 inch casserole dish (coated with non-stick spray). Sprinkle more parmesan on top, if desired. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until it’s hot, bubbly, and the parmesan is golden brown.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
Yep, I ate this for lunch AND dinner today because it is YUMS.