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Canned tuna is a great staple item to keep around for making easy dinner ideas from your pantry. My kids love this creamy tuna macaroni casserole from scratch and so does my husband.
Before I knew how to cook, I always bought tuna helper to feed my family. We didn’t really like hamburger helper, but there were lots of tuna helper flavors we enjoyed. I loved that I could come home from work, dump a box in a pan, open a can of tuna, dump it in, and dinner would be ready soon.
I also loved that my family liked it and no one was complaining. I love easy dinner ideas because who of us has tons of time to pull out a gourmet dinner after we work all day. I like things I can start part of during the afternoon before the kids leave and then just take a few minutes to finish after they leave.
Homemade tuna helper
Tuna helper is still available in the store. I see it now and then when I walk through a middle aisle. It’s a great time-saver, so if you need a meal in a pinch, grab some. But this tuna macaroni casserole made from scratch blows the flavor of the box way out of the park.
I don’t like to use canned cream of soups to make recipes. They aren’t nearly as flavorful as homemade sauces. Once you learn a few sauce making skills, you’ll see that it really isn’t that hard to make something spectacular. It doesn’t take a long time or a lot of ingredients either.
Basically what’s in the cream of soups is a cream sauce and the main flavor ingredient. It might be celery, mushrooms, chicken, or whatever cream soup you usually get. There is a ton of sodium and preservatives in those little cans.
To make a cream sauce, you just cut up those ingredients, saute them in butter, add some salt, pepper, cream, milk or broth, and cook it down a little bit. You can also make a roux out of butter, add flour, cook and stir until the flour is starting to brown, then add your liquid. Usually either milk or broth. Whisk the mixture and cook until it thickens.
Once you have your cream of ingredient, you can proceed with any casserole, soup, pot pie, or whatever you used it in but the flavor will BLOW YOU AWAY. The difference is incredible.
Canned fish recipes
Canned tuna can be a great time saver as can canned chicken, salmon or other canned meats. They can make getting dinner on the table so much easier. I love tuna salad and so does my husband. You can use it in a variety of salads and casseroles. It’s so good.
If you like fish, you could try canned salmon in the same recipes and see if you like the variety. I’ve never tried it but I would. My husband claims to hate fish which I find funny since canned tuna has the strongest fishy flavor of any fish I know.
I like to use white albacore tuna because the taste isn’t as fishy. I think it is one of the reasons my kids enjoy the tuna dishes I make. It has a subtle, light flavor.
Tuna is a very low calorie meat. A small can of tuna only has about 144 calories if it’s packed in water. Of course, tuna in water adds quite a few calories, but some people prefer oil. Growing up my mom always bought tuna in water and it’s what I like.
Can you freeze tuna casserole?
Tuna casserole freezes great. If I’m making a freezer meal, I like to line my casserole dish with foil, build the casserole, then freeze it for an hour or two. Then I can pop the whole thing out, wrap the foil around it, write the name and date on the outside and pop it in the freezer. Then I have my casserole dish to use for other things.
When you are ready to serve the dish, you can put the casserole in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Then when you’re ready to serve it, just cook it as the directions say. You might have to add another 10 or so minutes to make sure the center is all the way warmed.
Freezer meals are my favorite easy diner ideas. I love having everything ready to go.
Creamy Tuna Macaroni Casserole from Scratch (Spicy)
- 3 T butter
- 2 stalks celery finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 T flour
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 c chicken broth
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1/2 c cream
- 1 can rotel (or make your own frozen rotel from fresh tomatoes and peppers from the garden)
- 1 lb macaroni noodles, cooked
- 2 cans albacore tuna in water
- Preheat oven to 325
- Add butter to skillet and add celery and onions
- Saute until tender
- Add flour. Stir and cook about 2 minutes.
- Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper to taste, cream and chicken broth
- Stir and cook until mixture thickens a little bit
- Add rotel with juice, tuna with water and cooked macaroni
- Mix and dump into a casserole dish
- Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly around edges
We used mild Rotel, if you want a spicier dish, try medium or hot. You can also substitute the rotel with 2 cups of your favorite salsa. And don’t forget, if you don’t have tuna, you can used canned chicken, or leftover meat cubed up.
For more homemade “helper” pasta dishes, check out these quick and easy pasta dinners.