Thursday, January 12, 2012

No Way! This is Canned Tuna?!

In the past, canned tuna meant a lovely tuna fish sandwich to me. Tuna fish sandwiches don't have to be boring. You can get creative by adding nuts, herbs, fancy kinds of mustard, etc. Very satisfying.

But I only eat so many tuna fish sandwiches and I had a ton of canned tuna in my pantry that I needed to use up before being forced to throw it out.

So, a couple of months ago, I was flipping through my monthly Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine and I came across a recipe for tuna casserole. This wasn't your average tuna noodle casserole. It used a completely different kind of pasta (usually, it calls for egg noodles) and it also called for panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). It intrigued me. Besides that, I happened to have all of the ingredients for this particular recipe in my cupboard already, so it meant that I didn't have to go grocery shopping before making dinner...for another day at least (I really hate grocery shopping).

I like canned tuna, but I've never really seen many uses for it. I mean, besides making tuna sandwiches and your basic tuna noodle casserole, what else can you use it for?

But then I made this tuna noodle casserole and my whole mind-set changed. I thought to myself "This was GOOD. What else can you make with canned tuna?" So, I did some searching and I realized that there is a LOT that you can make with it! I found all of my recipes this time around on the Martha Stewart website. Say what you will about Martha, but she's a woman who respects the pantry. I've constantly been amazed at how many creative recipes are on her website which successfully make use of seemingly boring or commonplace ingredients. Seriously, I will never look at canned tuna the same way again. I used up all of the tuna in my pantry and had to buy more. Plus, you can bet that I will definitely be stocking up on tuna for my food storage from here on out. I still have a whole slew of recipes for tuna that I want to try, but I'll include those in a part 2 blog post sometime. I figured that I had better get these tuna recipes on our blog so that other people besides myself can actually try them!

Oh, and in the process (and among many other delicious discoveries), I found a tuna sandwich that will blow every other tuna sandwich you have ever had right out of the water.

I hope you liked them as much as I did.

I will begin with the recipe that started it all...

Tuna Casserole


Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 pound tubetti or elbow macaroni
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 ounce Parmesan, grated (2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced small
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cans (6 ounces each) solid light tuna packed in water, drained and flaked
1 cup frozen peas, thawed


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions (it will be undercooked). Drain. In a small bowl, toss together panko, Parmesan, and 2 teaspoons oil.

In pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, 8 minutes. Add flour and whisk to coat onion with flour. Slowly whisk in broth, then milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in pasta, tuna, and peas, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer tuna mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and top with panko mixture. Bake until sauce is bubbling and crust is golden, 17-20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Martha Stewart website and Everyday Food magazine

Notes: I used a whole pound of ditalini. I seasoned my casserole quite generously with salt and pepper. This was so good. The texture of the ditalini and the addition of peas made this so delicious. Oh, and my picky eater oldest son liked this, so that made it even better!

Spaghetti with Tuna, Lemon, and Breadcrumbs


Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 pound spaghetti
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons slivered Kalamata olives
2 cans (6 ounces each) chunk light tuna in water, drained


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse bread and 1 teaspoon oil until coarse crumbs form. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Bake until golden, tossing occasionally, 6-8 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta, and return to pot. Add lemon zest and juice, parsley, olives, and 1 tablespoon oil; toss, adding enough pasta water to coat. Add tuna, toss gently. Serve sprinkled with breadcrumbs.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food, January 2009.

Notes: Another way to make the breadcrumbs would be to toast the bread in a toaster and then pulse the bread in a food processor or blender. Also, I used a whole pound of spaghetti (as I've mentioned before, I hate it when a recipe calls for less than a box of pasta. What am I supposed to do with 1/4 pound of spaghetti later on?). I also really like lemons and olives, so I increased the amount of lemon juice and olives used to suit my own taste. This was seriously so good. Surprisingly good. I would seriously serve this to company it was that good (unless my company hated fish, of course). Besides that, this recipe was so fast and easy. It literally only takes as long as it takes to cook and drain the pasta...and then you're done! I like those kinds of recipes A LOT!

Mediterranean Tuna-Noodle Casserole


1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for baking dishes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound wide egg noodles
2 red bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
4 cans (6 ounces each) tuna in olive oil, drained
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and thickly sliced
5 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil two 8-inch square (or other shallow 2 quart baking dishes). In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles until 2 minutes short of al dente; drain, and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a 5 quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium. Add bell peppers; season with salt and pepper. Cook until crisp-tender, 4-6 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a simmer.

Remove from heat; add mixture to noodles in pot, along with tuna, artichoke hearts, and scallions. Season with salt and pepper, and toss. Divide between prepared baking dishes, and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food, October 2007

Notes: We have actually already shared this recipe before (though we didn't post a picture of it last time). This recipe is actually freezer friendly and if you want directions on how to freeze and reheat it (as well as recipes for some additional freezer friendly casseroles), click here. I used cooking spray for the baking dish (and I used one 9x13 inch pan instead of two 8-inch square baking dishes). I also used tuna in water instead of olive oil because that's what I had and it still tasted great. Finally, I used 2 cans of artichoke hearts because I love them and you can never have too much!

This sauce is deceiving because it doesn't really thicken up until it cooks in the oven. I was worried that it would be thin and runny...but it wasn't. It was just right.

Tuna Tomato Pasta


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
3 cans tuna, well drained
2 cans crushed tomatoes, with juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, thyme, or rosemary
1 pound penne or fusilli pasta


Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Heat a medium saucepan and add the olive oil, swirling to coat the pan. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Add the tuna and stir, being careful not to break up the chunks too much.

Stir in the tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Add the chopped herbs a few minutes before serving.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta, drain, and toss with the sauce. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and an extra sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

Source: Mad Hungry recipe by Lucinda Scala Quinn from October 2010 found on the Martha Stewart website.

Notes: The recipe doesn't specify whether to use two 14.5 oz cans of crushed tomatoes or two 28 oz cans. I decided to err on the side of having too much rather than not enough, so I used two 28 oz cans (besides, I like tomatoes and I needed some 28 oz cans for another project). However, after having made it, I think the recipe is referring to two 14.5 oz cans. But I thought it was really yummy using two 28 oz cans, so I would just tell you to go by your own personal preference. If you like a lot of sauce (and I do), use the larger cans. Otherwise, use the smaller ones.

This recipe is best the first night. When it is fresh and piping hot, it is so rich and flavorful. When you eat it as leftovers, it does start to taste just a tad bit fishy. Again, I used tuna packed in water (because that's what I had).

I made it using fresh oregano. But it would be equally delicious with the thyme or rosemary suggested in the recipe.

Tuna Nicoise Sandwich


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cans oil-packed tuna (6 oz each), drained
1/4 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
8 inch country style round bread loaf
3 tablespoons jarred olive tapenade
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 hard-cooked large eggs


In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, white-wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard; season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Transfer 2 tablespoons dressing to another bowl; toss with tuna. To remaining dressing, add cucumber and red onion; toss to combine.

Cut an 8-inch country-style round bread loaf in half horizontally; remove most of soft interior bread. Spread 3 tablespoons jarred olive tapenade on bottom half. Top with 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, then 2 hard-cooked large eggs sliced; season with salt and pepper. Top with tuna, then cucumber mixture, and close sandwich.

Wrap sandwich tightly in plastic and place between two baking sheets. Weight with a heavy skillet. Let stand 1 hour (or refrigerate, up to overnight). To serve, cut into quarters.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food, July/August 2009

Notes: Rather than canned tuna, I used tuna packed in pouches this time around. I doubled this recipe (and made two loaves or a total of 8 sandwich servings). So, I used two pouches of tuna (enough to total 24 ounces of tuna, which would have been the equivalent had I used canned tuna).

I would suggest that you remove some, but not most of the interior bread. This is a very moist sandwich and it might get too soggy if you remove too much bread. I removed a lot of the interior bread and pressed it for about 40 minutes (rather than an hour). If I had waited too much longer, it would have been soggy. It is a messy sandwich, so keep some napkins nearby.

But honestly, this is everything a tuna sandwich should be. It's the tuna sandwich I've been waiting my whole life for! :) It has so many strong flavors that you think it might be overwhelming, but all of the flavors work together beautifully to make one super tasty sandwich.

Oh, and if you're intimidated by the name, Nicoise is pronounced "nee-swahz" (you can hear the pronunciation here.)


  1. Que the Barbara Streisand song, "I finally found the one!" I think that song was actually writen about that tuna sandwich! I gotta try it!

  2. Really, did you like the tomato pasta w/tuna? Did that really work? I'm afraid I would have been too scared to even try it. You got adventurous genes...must have come from your dad! :)