The 3-Ingredient Dinner I Make When I’m Craving Comfort

It takes just 15 minutes to whip up.

<p>Simply Recipes / Sarah Crowder</p>

Simply Recipes / Sarah Crowder

The food I cook for my family looks pretty different from what I ate growing up, but occasionally I’ll crave specific dishes from my childhood. These urges tend to arise when I’m in a vulnerable state, especially when I’m under the weather or homesick.

The meal I most frequently return to is, not surprisingly, a riff on a classic comfort dish: tuna noodle casserole. The genius of the version my mom makes is it requires only three ingredients and 15 minutes to whip up.

My mom’s Cheater’s Tuna Noodle Casserole, as I affectionately refer to it, calls for your favorite boxed mac and cheese, frozen peas, and canned tuna. That’s it. I think it originated as a way to make a full meal of the always-on-hand Kraft macaroni and cheese, but I love that it’s also a shortcut method for making tuna casserole.

How To Make My Mom’s 3-Ingredient Cheater’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

You can use the blue box, as my family did, or choose your favorite brand of boxed mac and cheese—I’m partial to Annie’s Real Shells & Aged Cheddar. Prepare according to the instructions on the box, but add 3/4 cup of frozen peas to the colander before draining the pasta. Pouring the hot pasta over top will thaw the peas while you make the sauce.

At the end, stir in a can or jar of drained tuna (4 to 5 ounces). In just a few minutes and without having to turn on the oven, you can have pasta in a creamy sauce, the pleasantly mild flavor of canned tuna, and the bright pops of sweet peas. It’s no wonder this combination of flavors has become a classic.

<p>Simply Recipes / Sarah Crowder</p>

Simply Recipes / Sarah Crowder

Easy Ways To Upgrade This Recipe

Sometimes I doctor the recipe the same way I do any boxed mac and cheese by adding some freshly grated cheddar cheese. Or you could take a tip from Coco Morante and add an egg yolk to the powdered cheese sauce.

If you’re missing some of the textures of a classic baked tuna casserole, consider adding a crunchy topping, like crushed Ritz, potato chips, or fried onions.

Once it gets hot outside, I won’t even consider turning on my oven to bake a casserole, but since this variation not only takes way less time but also relies only on the stovetop, I can make this comfort meal any time of the year. And while a baked casserole runs the risk of drying out in the oven, a stovetop version is always perfectly creamy.

In fact, if you’re not a fan of boxed macaroni and cheese, you can still benefit from this shortcut by adding tuna and peas to a homemade stovetop macaroni and cheese. Easier and fewer dishes to wash—exactly what I want when I’m craving comfort.

<p>Simply Recipes / Sarah Crowder</p>

Simply Recipes / Sarah Crowder

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