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Creamy Shells with Tuna and Spinach

This update to the old-fashioned tuna casserole is just as delicious as you remember: It gets a fresh taste from spinach and a fun shape from shells.

  • prep: 30 mins
    total time: 50 mins
  • servings: 4

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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced small
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 hamburger bun, torn into large pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out
  • 2 cans (6 ounces each) light tuna in water, drained and flaked
  • 6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (about 20), cooked according to package instructions

Cook's Note

Toss Together a Salad:
In a large bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon each red-wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Add 3/4 head iceberg lettuce, chopped, and 1 tomato, cut into wedges. Toss to combine.

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly, and cook until slightly thickened and bubbling, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and let sauce cool slightly.

  2. Step 2

    In a food processor, combine bun, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, and red-pepper flakes. Process until fine crumbs form. Transfer half the mixture to a large bowl and combine with spinach, tuna, and half the sauce; season with salt and pepper. Fill each shell with 2 heaping tablespoons spinach mixture and place in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Top with remaining sauce and breadcrumb mixture. Bake until sauce is bubbling and breadcrumbs are golden, about 20 minutes.

Source
Everyday Food, March 2012

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Reviews (10)

  • 5 Jul, 2014

    Made this recipe exactly as is ... Found the red pepper flakes to be a bit overpowering might put less next time. There is a lot of clean up ... As for the lack of taste I can see other ppl view on that but I definitely wouldn't add extra Alfredo sauce, cheese etc. no kidding it's going to taste better when you have double the fat content in an already rich meal ...

  • 29 May, 2014

    I really liked this recipe! I like tuna casserole anyway, though. I used panko instead of processing my own breadcrumbs and it was a great success. It's true that I had a lot of cleanup, but I still thought it was worth it. I saw another commenter used salmon instead of tuna. I bet that would be delicious, too!

  • 21 May, 2014

    This was great. Yes, it might be "less than flavorful" for some people; but for my picky children, it was perfect. I used cayenne pepper instead of red pepper flakes; I used canned mushroom soup instead of the flour, milk mixture. That solved the mess described by one reviewer. I used butter instead of oil. I added additional diced mushrooms. I added green onion. I used chicken broth to thin out the sauce a bit. The French fried onions were sublime. Thank you.

  • 22 Apr, 2014

    After reading the reviews, I also added more garlic and used the Alfredo sauce. I only used 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper but I increased the number of cans of tuna, added shrimp sauteed in wine and butter (cut into small pieces), and added 1 small container of ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and 1/2 package of the Italian shredded cheese blend found at my local grocery store. It was delicious and everyone at our church dinner loved it!! I've made it several times now. Yum!!

  • 7 Apr, 2014

    Although this recipe sounds good, I would add garlic, hot pepper flakes, plus some jack cheese or possibly a combo of swiss and jack cheeses for some "kick" and frozen peas. I would also add some mushrooms (baby bella's) that I would sauteed in some butter, garlic and either white wine, sherry or a broth. If I didn't have any spinach on hand, I would add some kale to the mushrooms to wilt down and cook with the mushrooms I will use canned salmon it's healthier then tuna.

  • 4 Apr, 2014

    I enjoy cooking, and watching Sarah's cooking videos. Everything she prepares looks tantalizing...in the video. Looks were deceiving in this case, I'm afraid. I read the reviews and added some minced garlic with the onions for extra flavour and the end product was rather underwhelming, and I was left with a mighty large clean-up job. Even though I was careful with the temperature, the cooked milk stuck to the bottom of the pot (pain!). In summary: this yields a big old mess for a mediocre meal.

  • 25 Sep, 2013

    This is a great recipe, but given previous reviews I decided to alter it a tiny bit before trying. Instead of using four cups of whole milk, I used three cups plus one cup of Alfredo sauce. I also added a good bit of garlic to the sautéing onions, and sprinkled some sliced black olives on top of the dish before and after applying the remaining breadcrumbs. Rich and creamy!

  • 4 Apr, 2013

    I respect the thought that went into this recipe but after two bites I decided to save my calories. Easy but too many steps. It flopped in my book.

  • 14 Aug, 2012

    I was disappointed in this recipe. I thought that the taste just wasn't there. I love tuna casserole but it just lacked something. I am not sure what??? Sorry.

  • 22 Jun, 2012

    this tuna dish is amazing! fairly quick to put together and my whole family loved it. it is my new go to tuna casserole