Betcha Can’t: Lightened-Up Tuna Casserole

My husband Paul never goes all Kanye on me when it comes to how I dress (thank God for that…since there *may* be several times a week that I am in my pajamas before 7PM (and we’re not talking Victoria’s Secret here people). He never scoffs at the latest hobby I’m just so passionate about (most recent: acrylic painting), and he has no demands or crazy expectations when it comes to what comes out of the kitchen. He’s generally not a demanding guy.

Hell, he willingly eats tofu.

So, for this guy of few demands, what is the one thing that I cook that will make him stop in his tracks? (and not in that whoop-whoop-I-can’t-wait-to-dig-into-that-plate-of-deliciousness kind of way).

Tuna Casserole

Seriously, what is wrong with him?! Did his mom drop him on his head when he was a baby? I mean, who doesn’t love an old-school casserole.

Or maybe….it has more to do with some deeply suppressed memory of a school lunch lady (or an Army cook), head adorned with a day-old hair net and a filthy greasy apron wrapped about a generous waist, slopping a scoopful of casserole onto his lunch tray as he ponders whether he’s hungry enough to eat the stuff.

OK, I get it, casseroles have kind of a bad rap. Not only are they often a vehicle for getting rid of all of the ‘leftovers’ in the fridge (otherwise known as the stuff you should probably be throwing in the trash, not in the oven), they are also not particularly healthy.

So I set out to make a casserole Paul could be excited about, or at least not be horrified by. Truth is, I had such low expectations, I didn’t even pull out my real camera to take the photos, hence the camera-phone quality:


Turns out, it was pretty yummy. I started with white albacore tuna, which already made it better than the lunch lady stuff. I added lots of veggies and used low fat milk and white rice flour to make the bechamel (thaaat’s right…I said it…super fancy stuff going on here!). Instead of finishing it off with the traditional breadcrumb topping, I used crispy kale. Because, you know, Paul willingly eats that, too. Healthy, right?

I admit that I’m not making this once a week (which I would totally do if it was just me I was feeding), but at least I didn’t get an eye-roll when I brought it to the table. Did I mention that someone had seconds? Yea, pretty sure I’ve almost converted a tuna casserole skeptic into a fan.

Betcha Can’t: Lightened-Up Tuna Casserole

servings: about 4 | time: about 45 minute


4 cups fresh kale, washed, dried and coarsely chopped

2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 1/3 cups gluten free elbow pasta

2 TBSP unsalted butter or olive oil

2 TBSP white rice flour

1 cup 1% milk

1/4 tsp. white pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 tsp. dried tarragon

1 cup frozen mixed peas and carrots

1 cup lima beans or edamame

3/4 cup sliced mushrooms

1 7-ounce can of white albacore tuna, packed in water


Preheat oven to 350

1. Place the chopped kale in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, Old Bay seasoning, and pepper. Toss well to coat the kale with the oil and seasoning and spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 -15 minutes, until it’s crispy. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the recipe

2. Prepare the pasta according to package directions, subtracting 5 minutes from the cooking time

3. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high temperature. Melt the butter (or heat the olive oil). Add the white rice flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Slowly add the 1% milk, whisking constantly.  Reduce the heat to low to allow the mixture to simmer until it thickens

4. Add the shredded cheese and tarragon

5. Add the cooked pasta and all of the vegetables to the sauce, combine well

6. Spray a medium baking dish with non-stick spray. Pour the casserole into the dish and bake at 350 for 20 minutes

7. Remove from oven and top with crispy kale