Ultimate Barefoot Contessa Tuna Casserole

Barefoot Contessa Tuna Casserole
  • Prep Time
    15 Min
  • Cook Time
    30 Min
  • View

Embrace the warmth and comfort of a dish that’s perfect for chilly evenings with the ultimate Barefoot Contessa tuna casserole. Elevate your dinner game with a recipe refined by Ina Garten, the celebrated chef, cookbook author, and TV host known as the Barefoot Contessa.

Ina Garten, renowned for her ability to transform simple ingredients into stunning, elegant meals, brings you a tuna casserole that’s a cut above the rest. Featured in her book “Modern Comfort Food,” this recipe has garnered acclaim for its homey yet refined charm.

Imagine a delightful blend of canned tuna, egg noodles, cheese, and vegetables, all brought together with a creamy, wine-infused sauce and crowned with a crispy breadcrumb topping. Baked until it reaches golden perfection, this casserole is the definition of comfort food.

This blog post will guide you through creating this exquisite Barefoot Contessa tuna casserole, offering step-by-step instructions, essential tips for enhancing flavor, and advice on storage and reheating. Plus, discover helpful FAQs and serving suggestions to complete your meal.

Ready to impress with the best tuna casserole you’ve ever tasted? Let’s dive in!

Why You’ll Fall in Love with Barefoot Contessa’s Tuna Casserole

Imagine a dish that goes beyond mere eating—a dish that feels like a warm embrace. That’s what Barefoot Contessa’s tuna casserole brings to the table. Let’s discover why you’ll find yourself completely enchanted by this exceptional recipe.

Homestyle Comfort

There’s an unexplainable magic about tuna casserole that transports you straight back to the warmth of home. It might be the rich, creamy sauce, the blissful blanket of melted cheese, or the soft, comforting embrace of the noodles. Or perhaps, it’s the nostalgia of being in the kitchen with your mom or grandma, eagerly awaiting the moment the spoon breaks through the golden crust. Tuna casserole wraps you in the ultimate sensation of comfort, leaving you feeling content and cherished.

Gourmet Touches

However, this isn’t just any tuna casserole. This is Barefoot Contessa’s rendition, where traditional meets exceptional. Ina Garten weaves her magic by introducing gourmet elements that elevate the dish to extraordinary. Imagine the nuanced flavors of wine, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a hint of lemon juice mingling within the sauce. Picture a crust that’s both crunchy and cheesy, made from the freshest sourdough bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, finished with the vibrant, fragrant tones of fresh thyme and parsley. This is a tuna casserole that could easily grace the menu of a high-end restaurant.

Accessibility of Ingredients

Another reason to be captivated by this tuna casserole is its simplicity and the accessibility of its ingredients. You don’t need to search for rare or expensive items to create this masterpiece. It calls for canned tuna, egg noodles, cheese, mushrooms, peas, and a selection of pantry staples. Moreover, it’s versatile enough to welcome any vegetables you have on hand, such as carrots, celery, or broccoli, making it a wonderful dish for clearing out the fridge or pantry.

The Ingredients You’ll Need

Embark on a culinary adventure with the ultimate Barefoot Contessa tuna casserole, a beloved dish requiring a curated list of ingredients to achieve its distinctive taste and texture.

Main Components

At the heart of this comforting dish are its core ingredients: canned tuna, egg noodles, cheese, mushrooms, and peas. Begin with two 10-ounce cans of solid light tuna in water, thoroughly drained and flaked. Next, 10 ounces of dried egg noodles will be needed, prepared as per the package’s instructions. Cheese plays a vital role in adding depth and richness, necessitating two cups of shredded cheddar or parmesan, distributed accordingly. Venturing into the vegetable realm, six ounces of freshly sliced mushrooms and an equal amount of thawed, frozen peas contribute to the casserole’s freshness and texture.

For the Perfect Crust

The casserole’s crowning glory is a crispy, cheesy crust, integral for adding a delightful crunch. Achieve this with two cups of freshly prepared sourdough bread crumbs blended with one tablespoon of melted butter. Enhance this mixture with half a cup of shredded cheddar or parmesan cheese and a tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley, infusing the crust with vibrant color and a burst of flavor.

Signature Seasonings

The soul of this dish lies in its signature seasonings, a meticulously chosen blend that elevates its taste profile. Key among these are one cup of diced yellow onions and five tablespoons of unsalted butter, forming the base of the flavor. One tablespoon of fresh thyme and two tablespoons of dark soy sauce add depth, while a quarter cup of dry white wine contributes a subtle acidity. To thicken the sauce, a quarter cup of all-purpose flour is essential, melding seamlessly with one cup of whole milk and one cup of low-sodium chicken or beef broth for a silky texture. Finally, two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and two teaspoons of lemon juice introduce a tangy complexity, with salt and pepper added according to personal preference to round off the seasoning.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Ultimate Tuna Casserole

With all your ingredients at the ready, it’s time to craft the perfect tuna casserole. Follow these straightforward steps for a delicious outcome:

Prepping Your Ingredients

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 400°F (200°C) and greasing a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  • Cook your egg noodles in a boiling pot of water until they’re al dente, roughly 8 minutes, then drain. Proceed to drain and flake your tuna, and let your frozen peas thaw.
  • Chop your onion, thyme, and parsley, and slice your mushrooms.
  • For the bread crumb topping, mix sourdough bread crumbs with melted butter, cheese, and parsley in a small bowl.

Assembling Layers of Flavor

  • Next, focus on your sauce and tuna mixture.
  • To make the sauce, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Sauté the onion until it’s soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Incorporate the flour, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
  • Gradually whisk in the milk, broth, wine, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice.
  • Once brought to a boil, cook until the sauce thickens, approximately 5 minutes, and season with salt and pepper according to taste.
  • For the tuna mixture, combine tuna, cheese, mushrooms, peas, and thyme in a bowl. Stir in half of the prepared sauce well.

Baking to Perfection

  • Finally, it’s time to assemble and bake your casserole.
  • Spread the remaining sauce evenly at the bottom of your greased baking dish.
  • Layer the noodle mixture atop the sauce, followed by an even sprinkle of the bread crumb topping.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the topping turns golden and the sauce is bubbling.
  • Allow the casserole to rest for 10 minutes before serving to let the flavors meld together perfectly.

What To Serve With Barefoot Contessa’s Tuna Casserole?

Barefoot Contessa’s tuna casserole, a warm and fulfilling dish, is perfect on its own or when paired with a few simple additions. If you’re looking for the perfect companions to this tasty casserole, here are some suggestions:

Side Salad Ideas

Pairing a vibrant, fresh side salad with the tuna casserole can counterbalance its creamy richness while injecting a splash of color and texture to your meal. Feel free to pick any salad of your choosing, but if you need some inspiration, consider these options:

  • A basic green salad featuring romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes with either a light vinaigrette or creamy dressing
  • A classic Caesar salad with crispy croutons, shaved Parmesan cheese, dressed in a bold, tangy sauce
  • A Mediterranean-inspired salad with feta cheese, olives, pepperoncini drenched in a zesty lemon dressing

Bread Pairings

Bread makes an excellent partner for tuna casserole, ready to absorb its delightful sauce and introduce a satisfying crunch. Choose any bread you prefer but here are a few suggestions that pair well:

  • Sourdough bread, known for its tangy taste and substantial chew
  • A French baguette, with its iconic crisp crust and tender middle
  • Pretzel bread, notable for its unique salty taste and soft texture

Wine Recommendations

To complement your meal with a glass of wine, select a variety that enhances the savory and cheesy aspects of the casserole. Consider these wine options:

  • A Chardonnay, with its rich, buttery, and oaky notes, pairs well with the casserole’s creaminess
  • A Pinot Noir, offering a spectrum of fruity and earthy tones, provides a lovely contrast to the dish’s cheesy and salty flavors
  • A Rosé, with its light, crisp, and rejuvenating taste, balances out the casserole’s density

Keeping Your Tuna Casserole Fresh

Tuna casserole is an ideal make-ahead meal that can be savored at a later time. To ensure it remains fresh and delicious, whether stored in the fridge or freezer, follow these key tips.

Storing Tips

Planning to enjoy your tuna casserole later or have leftovers? You can refrigerate it safely for up to four days. First, let it cool down completely before placing it in an airtight container or resealable bag to inhibit bacterial growth and stop odors from permeating your fridge. Don’t forget to mark the storage date on the container or bag, helping you monitor its shelf life.

Reheating Tricks

To rewarm your tuna casserole, choose between the oven or microwave. For oven reheating, preheat to 375°F (190°C), cover the casserole with aluminum foil, and bake for 25-30 minutes until it’s thoroughly heated and bubbling. In the microwave, move a portion to a microwave-safe plate, cover it with a damp paper towel, and heat for 2-3 minutes until steaming. Enhance its taste and texture by adding a sprinkle of extra cheese or breadcrumbs on top.

Freezing and Thawing Guidelines

Freezing your tuna casserole extends its life up to three months. Ensure it’s tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to maintain freshness. Remember to label it with the freezing date for optimal quality. When ready to eat, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat using the above methods for a delightful meal.

FAQs: Everything You Need to Know About Tuna Casserole

Tuna Casserole is both simple and satisfying. However, perfecting it might raise some questions. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions and their answers to help you make the best Tuna Casserole.

Choosing the Right Tuna

The choice of tuna significantly influences your casserole’s overall taste and texture. The market offers a variety of canned tuna types, including solid white, solid light, chunk light, and albacore – each with distinct flavors and textures suitable for different dishes. For casseroles, solid white and albacore tuna are preferred. Solid white tuna, known for its meatier, firmer consistency and milder, sweeter taste, contrasts with the chunkier and bolder flavored chunk light tuna. Albacore, larger and more flavorful than skipjack tuna, provides a desirable meaty and firm texture. The choice ultimately hinges on personal taste and budget, but for an ideal blend of texture and flavor in your casserole, solid white or albacore tuna are top choices.

Alternatives to Traditional Ingredients

To add a twist or healthiness to your tuna casserole, consider alternative ingredients. Swap traditional cheddar for mozzarella, Monterey Jack, or Swiss cheese; try cream of celery, chicken, or bacon soup in place of cream of mushroom. Elevate the dish’s nutritional profile and taste by incorporating vegetables like carrots, celery, broccoli, or spinach. Experiment with pasta types such as penne, fusilli, or rigatoni, keeping in mind that this can affect cooking time and texture. For those with dietary preferences, gluten-free or whole wheat pasta, along with regular, Italian, or gluten-free breadcrumbs—or even crushed potato chips or crackers for crunch—are viable options. To make your casserole vegan, opt for plant-based butter, milk, and cheese.

Dealing with Common Cooking Challenges

Cooking a tuna casserole is not without its hurdles, such as achieving the right sauce consistency, noodle texture, and moisture level, or avoiding a burnt or undercooked topping. Here are strategies to address these issues:

  • For a too-thin sauce, thicken with additional flour or cheese, or let it reduce by cooking longer. If the sauce is too thick, thin it out with more milk or broth, or cut the cooking time to avoid over-thickening.
  • Avoid mushy noodles by reducing their precooking time or opting for firmer pasta varieties like penne or rigatoni. If noodles are too hard, increase their precooking time or choose softer types, like egg noodles or fusilli.
  • If your casserole turns out too dry, more sauce or cheese can add moisture. Baking it covered with foil helps retain moisture. For a too-soggy casserole, reduce the sauce or cheese added, or bake uncovered to let some moisture evaporate.
  • Prevent a burnt topping by lowering the oven’s temperature, placing the casserole on a lower rack, or covering with foil. If the topping is too pale, increase the oven temperature, move the casserole higher, or broil briefly to achieve browning.


Congratulations on mastering the ultimate Barefoot Contessa’s tuna casserole recipe—a perfect blend of coziness, comfort, and delectable flavors. Throughout this guide, you have uncovered why this recipe stands out, the essential ingredients required, tips on storage and reheating, and ideal complementary dishes. Additionally, we navigated through frequently asked questions and hurdles associated with preparing tuna casserole.

Armed with knowledge and expert tips, it’s time to bring this recipe to life in your kitchen. You’ll find the process straightforward and the outcome immensely rewarding. Prepare for your family and friends to request this delightful dish repeatedly. This recipe is bound to become a cherished staple in your culinary repertoire.

Don’t delay any longer. Gather your ingredients, fire up your oven, and get set to relish in what’s bound to be the most delicious tuna casserole you’ve ever tasted!

You May Also Like