Noodles with Tuna and Peas ("Tuna Pea Wiggle")

June 18, 2015
5 Ratings
Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

The one thing my father made consistently over the years—I guess you could call it his signature dish—involved a box of Tuna Helper and a bag of frozen peas. He called it "Tuna Pea Wiggle" and he only made it once a year, when my whole family went sailing for a couple of days each summer.

Now that my sister and I are both grown, with families of our own, these sailing trips are pretty much impossible to coordinate. I miss everything about them. I can't recreate dishwashing by the light of the moon, but thankfully I can still have Tuna Pea Wiggle. Here, I've used fancy oil-packed tuna and added some morels as a nod to my father's high/low tastes, but the soul of the dish remains the same. —Merrill Stubbs

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 7 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 pint morel mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 12 ounces fusilli or other short pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups peas (frozen, or fresh peas that have been shelled and blanched)
  • 2 5-ounce cans good, olive-oil packed tuna, drained and flaked into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Stir together the breadcrumbs, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, stirring once, until breadcrumbs are fragrant and golden brown. Set aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add shallot, celery, and mushrooms with a generous pinch of salt and cook until the vegetables soften and start to brown, about 5 minutes. If they start to brown too quickly, add a little water to the pan.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until the flour softens and melts. Turn up heat to medium and add the milk, whisking to break up any flour lumps. Stir constantly until sauce is thickened and bubbly, about 4 minutes. Turn heat down to low and season well with salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon zest, nutmeg, cream, and Parmesan and stir well. Keep warm.
  4. Next, cook the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, add the peas and tuna to the cream sauce and stir through. When the pasta is al dente, drain it, saving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir. If the sauce seems thick, add a little of the reserved cooking water. Taste for seasoning, then add lemon juice and parsley and stir again. Serve immediately, sprinkling each plate with some of the breadcrumbs.

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10 Reviews

tgrllyct September 27, 2020
This is hands-down THE best recipe for "tuna casserole" we've ever had! It's PMS worthy comfort food! :)
Susan January 18, 2019
It’s annoying that food52 doesn’t bother to read recipe comments. If you did, you’d see that the list of ingredients calls for seven tablespoons of butter, yet the cooking instructions only mention three. Of course, if someone had bothered to edit the recipe in the first place…
jacci F. March 28, 2018
Hello all - for you that have made it, is it really necessary to use the oil packed tuna?
Isa March 28, 2018
Hello, Jacci,
No. I used water packed sodium free...added salt to taste and some olive oil as needed...
jacci F. March 28, 2018
Thanks so much! I will be trying this soon!
Isa January 18, 2018
This came out really well, though, to be fair, as we are trying to determine potential allergies, I made the following substitutions: olive oil in place of butter, broth in place of milk (omitted the heavy cream and didn't substitute here), potato starch in place of flour, and good quality rice flour pasta. Gluten-free, dairy-free (egg-free naturally) and everyone (three kids, husband, and I) all loved it. Thank you!
Ann January 11, 2017
Really nice flavors here--just worked with about half the butter listed--and clearly a huge step up from the tuna casserole made with cream of mushroom soup. But make sure you have plenty of time for prep. Lots of steps here, not difficult, but time-consuming. This recipe comes together quickly at the end, but I'm not entirely sure it was worth the effort.
Catherine L. November 29, 2016
What do you do with the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter?
janet V. October 28, 2015
Am I missing something or are you using only 3 tablespoons of butter, which by the way sounds just about right to me. The recipe calls for 7 tablespoons, divided.
CBMillet June 24, 2015
I married into a sailing family and, like yours, ours has very definite, very particular meals when we're on board. My father-in-law's classic has affectionately been termed, "Chicken Glop." Tastes better than it sounds. We will definitely give "Tuna Pea Wiggle" a try this summer!