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Tuna-Zoodle Casserole

Updated: 8/13/21 10:00 pmPublished: 3/29/21
By Catherine Newman

By Catherine Newman

Makes: 4 servings

Total carbohydrates: 11 grams per serving

Hands-On Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

This is an adaptation of my own zucchini-noodle mac and cheese recipe; if you want to make that instead, just skip the tuna. But oh, the tuna makes this so, so good! It will light up almost all of your tuna-noodle casserole bulbs, I promise. Yes, the zucchini is not quite the same as noodles. But it’s actually really good, in its own right, if you don’t think of it as simply a poor substitute. And the cheese sauce is sharp, velvety perfection and comes together easily. The only trick here is trying to convince the zucchini to give up its water before it gets sauced and baked. If, even after your best efforts, there’s a little liquid in the bottom of the dish as you serve it, just go ahead and discretely ignore it.

If you’re looking to:

Lower the carbs: Serve smaller portions. (The dish can quite easily feed 5 people.)

Lower the fat: Skip the butter.

Lower the salt: Reduce salt to 1 teaspoon.


2 tablespoons butter

3 medium zucchinis, around 1 ½ pounds, spiralized (or 20 – 24 ounces prepared zoodles)

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt (or ¾ teaspoon table salt)

1 egg

1 cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Frank’s)

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

4 ounces grated cheddar cheese (or torn American cheese slices)

2 (5-ounce) cans oil-packed tuna, drained


  1. Heat the oven to 425° F. Put the butter in an oven-proof baking dish (mine’s roughly 7- by 9-inches) and put it in the oven until the butter’s melted, then remove it.

  2. Prepare your zoodles: Use scissors or a knife to cut them into roughly 2-inch lengths (very roughly – don’t sweat this), then spread them out on a clean dish towel. Sprinkle the salt over them and toss them well, then roll up the whole bundle tightly and leave it to sit while you prepare to make the sauce.

  3. Put the egg, milk, hot sauce, and garlic powder in a medium-sized pot and beat well with a fork or whisk. Reserve ½ cup of cheese for topping, and add the rest to the pot.

  4. Now return to your zoodles! Give the bundle a squeeze to extract the liquid, and then – and yes, this is kind of a pain – move the zoodles to a fresh clean dish towel, wrap them up again, and squeeze. You really want to get as much moisture out of them as you can. Dump the dry-as-you-can-get-them zoodles into the pan with the melted butter, toss them with tongs, and stick them in the oven while you make the sauce.

  5. Turn the heat under the pot to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk or a heatproof rubber spatula, until the cheese melts and then the sauce gets thick and creamy and hot, around five minutes. 

  6. Take the pan out of the oven, flake the tuna over the top of the zoodles, pour the sauce over everything, and top with the extra grated cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. If it’s not sufficiently bubbled and browned at this point, feel free to turn the broiler on for a minute or two. Serve right away.

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Her book "How to Be A Person" was published in 2020. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

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About the authors

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop... Read the full bio »