Stuffed Shells Tuna Casserole is a cross between a comforting pasta meal and the best tuna casserole you’ve ever had. Creamy and cheesy but also fresh with colorful mixed vegetables and chunky albacore tuna, this is a fantastic meal.
Stuffed shells and tuna casserole are two of the classics when it comes to comfort food. So what does that say when we combine the two into one fabulous creamy, cheesy dish? Oh and let’s add some fresh flavor and texture with crispy and bold vegetables as well. I think that says this recipe is prime to become one of your favorites that gets requested over and over again.
I’ve been trying for a long time to create a tuna casserole that isn’t so “back in the day” that it looks and tastes out of style. So when I found a very light version in a recipe from the American Heart Association that combined tuna and jumbo shells with lots of veggies, I started there and though what I’m sharing with you today may be a little more rich and creamy, I still made sure to use fresh, good-for-you ingredients. You won’t be disappointed.
Ingredients in Stuffed Shells Tuna Casserole-
Tuna- Probably the most important thing to consider for this recipe is the type of tuna you buy. You want great flavor and nice texture. So be sure to choose a chunk or solid Albacore tuna, preferably packed in water. My absolute favorite is Natural Catch tuna. This post is not an ad for them but it’s the only tuna we buy now. The tuna is hand cut into fillets before being packed and that makes for the best texture and upscale flavor I’ve ever tried. Plus it’s sustainable, ethically sourced, and low in mercury.
Jumbo shells– Jumbo pasta shells are perfect for stuffing all the goodness and make serving easy.
Fresh vegetables- I like a mix of fresh broccoli, red bell peppers, and peas. But you could also add green bell peppers, jalapeños for a little heat, and edamame for more protein and a firmer bite.
Cheese- Sharp cheddar adds a nice edge to the casserole. You can use any cheddar you like or have on hand.
Perfect seasonings and condiments- The combination of Dijon mustard, dried thyme, basil, and Old Bay Seasoning brings all the needed fresh tang to the casserole. Salt, pepper, and a little bit of fresh shallot are used to finish off for a perfect bite every time.
White sauce- A white sauce made with butter, flour, and half and half adds the creamy element that along with the cheese, makes the recipe comforting and warm.
How do you make this recipe-
Cook the shells- Boil the jumbo shells according to package directions but don’t let them get too soft. You want them firm enough that they don’t tear when adding the filling.
Make the white sauce- The white sauce starts with a mix of butter, all-purpose flour, and half and half. Once the sauce starts to thicken, add the Dijon mustard, salt, thyme, basil, Old Bay seasoning, and pepper.
Mix the vegetables and tuna- In a separate bowl, add a mixture of whatever vegetables you’re using with the tuna. Then some of the white sauce gets added to this mixture.
Stuff the shells- Fill the shells pretty well with about 1/4 cup of the vegetable and tuna mixture. As you fill them, arrange into a shallow pan or casserole dish. Pour the remainder of the sauce over all the shells.
Sprinkle cheddar over the top and bake- Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese over the tuna casserole and bake covered until it’s bubbly and the cheese is fully melted.
Serve- Stuffed Shells Tuna Casserole is easy to serve, just spoon up however many stuffed shells you want, with sauce, onto a plate.
The cheesy topping on Stuffed Shells Tuna Casserole is a sure hit with everyone and you can add a lot more or scale back if you like. If tuna isn’t your thing, rotisserie chicken is a great substitute and it can easily be made vegetarian by omitting meat altogether.
How to serve Stuffed Shells Tuna Casserole-
This recipe for Stuffed Shells Tuna Casserole is rich, creamy, fresh, colorful, and full of flavor. I serve it with a light tossed green salad on the side or my favorite green vegetable. If you like this casserole recipe, be sure to check out my recipe for Sausage Breakfast Casserole and My Mom’s Tamale Pie. For another recipe using stuffed shells, check out my Salad Stuffed Shells.
Can Tuna Casserole be made ahead of time-
The casserole can be assembled and before making and pouring the white sauce over, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to one day ahead of serving. The day of serving, bring out the casserole to sit at room temperature while you make the sauce and continue from there. No extra baking time is needed.
Stuffed Shells Tuna Casserole
- ½ pound jumbo shells cook a few extra in case shells break
- 4 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups Half and Half plus extra if needed
- 3 tsps Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning or ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- ½ tsp dried basil
- 2 4.5 oz cans albacore tuna in water drained
- 1 cup fresh broccoli chopped
- ½ red bell pepper diced
- 1 small shallot minced
- ½ cup sharp cheddar shredded
- Cook jumbo shell pasta according to package until just al dente. Dash with cold water and set aside. Preheat oven to 350℉.
- In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about one minute, whisking constantly. Slowly stir in the half and half. Add the Dijon mustard, salt, thyme, basil, Old Bay seasoning, and pepper. Stir until thickened, about 3 minutes. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. If sauce seems too thick, add more half and half until thick buy not gloopy.
- In a medium bowl, add the tuna, broccoli, red bell pepper, and shallot. Add about ½ cup of the sauce and stir to bind. This will still be a bit dry. Add a very thin layer of sauce to the bottom of the casserole dish. Fill each shell with the tuna mixture, continuing until the stuffed shells have filled the dish. Don't overcrowd them but place side by side. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over top.
- Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, until heated through. Remove the foil and continue to bake another 5 minutes to let the cheese further melt into the sauce.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle fresh parsley over the top, more black pepper, if desired. Servings are for 2 or 3 shells per person.
- Leftovers may be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat and serve.
- You may replace the butter in the sauce with a half cup of broth if desired.
- Half and half may be replaced with milk or cream as desired.
- Other vegetables are also delicious in the casserole. Frozen peas are particularly good.