Homemade Tuna Helper is so much better than the boxed stuff! Plus, it’s super quick and easy to make with a handful of simple ingredients that you might already have on hand. Tender bites of shell pasta are nestled into the best creamy, cheesy sauce with plenty of tuna!
Homemade Tuna Helper
I love making homemade versions of classic favorites like our Homemade Hamburger Helper! To me, it’s the ultimate comfort food and it’s so easy to make. With that being said, once I started making homemade versions of the boxed meals I never went back. Another classic I love is Tuna Casserole so I really wanted to combine the ideas! This homemade tuna helper recipe is so much creamier, cheesier, and even more filling! Not to mention it’s also still crazy easy to make, which is most of the allure of the boxed stuff. While it does require a little more attention than the box does, I promise it’s well worth the additional minimal effort.
How to Make Homemade Tuna Helper
- Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions until it’s al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Make a roux. Melt the butter in the same pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Whisk constantly and don’t let it burn! Then, mix in the seasonings.
- Add broth. Slowly pour in the broth and stir continuously to avoid any lumps. Stir until the sauce thickens and starts to simmer.
- Make it creamy. Lower the heat and stir in the half and half. Keep stirring until the sauce simmers again and is thickened.
- Make it cheesy. Turn off the heat. Gradually stir in both cheeses until melted.
- Toss it all together. Add the pasta and tuna to the sauce. Stir everything together until it’s all coated evenly.
Storing Hamburger Tuna Helper
Once cooled to room temperature, tuna helper can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time it stops, until warmed all the way through. I don’t recommend freezing this tuna pasta recipe.
Ingredient Notes for Homemade Tuna Pasta
- Pasta: Shell pasta is what’s used in the box, so it’s what I’m using in this copycat recipe! Feel free to swap it with another short pasta shape if you’d like.
- Flour: I recommend spooning the flour into the measuring cup rather than dunking the cup into a bag. If you dunk it, you end up really packing the flour in there. That results in too much flour.
- Butter: It can be salted or unsalted, whichever you prefer.
- Seasonings: I find that a simple blend of onion powder, garlic powder, salt and black pepper creates the very best flavor. However, you can always add more seasonings if you’d like!
- Half and Half: You can swap this with heavy cream, but you should note that you’ll end up with a much thicker sauce.
- Cheeses: Cheddar and parmesan are the two cheeses you’ll need. For the best flavor and consistency, grate each cheeses fresh off the block. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in powder to prevent it from clumping in the bag, which can also affect how well it melts together.
Homemade Tuna Helper
- 12 Ounces Medium Shell Pasta
- 4 Tablespoons Salted Butter
- 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 2 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1 Cup Half and Half at room temperature
- 2 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese freshly grated
- 1 12-oz Can Chunk Tuna, drained
- Cook the pasta in a large pot according to the package instructions until it’s al dente. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
- Melt the butter in the same pot over medium heat and stir in the flour mixing continuously to make a roux. Mix in the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Gradually pour in the chicken broth while stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Continue stirring until the sauce starts to simmer and thickens a bit.
- Lower the heat and pour in half and half, stirring constantly until the sauce starts to simmer again and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Turn off the heat and gradually stir in the cheddar and parmesan cheese until melted.
- Add the cooked pasta and tuna to the sauce and mix until everything is coated evenly.
- Garnish with freshly chopped parsley if desired.