My first encounters with casseroles were from a box, where you added hamburger meat or canned tuna to a mix of dried noodles, cooking liquid, and some mysterious seasoning packet. To say I loved these things was a big understatement.
As an adult, though, my tastes have changed, but my love of creamy, comforting casseroles hasn't. This quick-cooking tuna-noodle version has joined my cold-weather dinner rotation!
To make this casserole feasible for a weeknight dinner, it's made all in one pot on the stovetop. After sautéeing onions and thyme together, orzo pasta is cooked in a mixture of milk and water until rich and creamy. I love this method since there's only one pot to wash and very little water is used — a big plus in my book since I live in California.
As for the type of tuna to use, I love oil-packed tunas from Italy or Spain, but you can also use water-packed tuna too if you prefer. The beauty of this dish is that you can just use what you have on hand.
And to make sure this is a complete one-pot meal, broccoli is tossed in at the end with the tuna and cheese, so there's no need to cook a separate side dish. You're just 30 minutes and one pot away from casserole heaven.
Stovetop Tuna Orzo Casserole with Broccoli
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
2 cups milk (not nonfat)
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
1 broccoli crown (about 12 ounces)
1 (5- to 7-ounce) jar or can of tuna, drained and flaked
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and is starting to brown, about 8 minutes.
Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasty smelling, about 1 minute. Add the milk, water, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and season with pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is almost cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. (Add more water as needed if the orzo absorbs it all before tender.) Meanwhile, prep the broccoli.
Cut the broccoli into very small florets, about 1/2-inch pieces. When the orzo is almost ready, add the broccoli and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the tuna and cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted, then taste and add more salt as needed. Serve immediately.
(Image credits: Melissa Ryan)