Recipe: Tuna Stuffed Shells

These Tuna Stuffed Shells are classy enough to serve to company!  Consider it a grown up and somewhat gourmet-fied take on the classic tuna casserole.

Tuna (or it’s more pricey cousin canned salmon) can be a frugal cook’s friend.  Shelf stable, inexpensive and full of all those omega-3’s and things that we should be adding to our diet, it’s a great item to keep on your pantry shelf.

Tuna Stuffed Shells

Tuna Stuffed Shells


  • 1lrg box of pasta shells
  • 2 6oz cans of tuna in oil
  • 1 C fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 C chopped onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TBS Parsley
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Sauce
  • 2 TBS Butter
  • 2 TBS Flour
  • 1 1/2 C Milk
  • 2-4 TBS Parmesan cheese
  • grind of pepper
  • dash of nutmeg


  • Cook pasta until al-dente (note this means that it isn't completely soft but still has a bit of "hard' in the center)
  • Place cooked pasta in a single layer on a piece of wax paper. If necessary "re-form" the shells into their shell shape.
  • Combine tuna with it's oil, bread crumbs, onion, egg, parsely and lemon juice and mix well.
  • Spoon tuna filling into the shells and place in a single layer on a greased 9X13 baking dish. (An ice tea spoon or baby spoon works well for this if you have one.)
  • To make the sauce
  • In a saucepan, melt butter, then add flour and stir for a few minutes until it starts to bubble a bit.
  • Add milk all at once and then stir constantly till the flour/butter is completely dissolved in the milk.
  • Add cheese and spices and cook until thickened.
  • Pour sauce over prepared tuna shells & bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
  • Variations:
  • Use the more expensive canned salmon instead of tuna, or cook & flake 12 oz of your favorite fish, then add either 4 TBS or so of oil or mayo.
  • Play with your pasta. Use manicotti shells, lasagna noodles (to make a roll up) or even make homemade ravioli!
  • Don't have the time to make your own sauce? Start with a can of "cream of" soup, then add 1/2 C milk and the cheese and spices.

Note:  If you are concerned about the mercury levels in tuna I recommend you read the United States Enviromental Protective Agency’s post on “What you need to know about mercury in fish & shellfish”–long story short, keep it to 6oz for Tuna in oil and 12 oz for light tuna in water a week and the average healthy adult is fine.  If you are feeding young children, are pregnant or nursing you may want to skip it all together

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  1. Didi says

    Oh man oh man did you have me drooling. Funny thing is it’s supposed to rain this weekend me thinks, not sure but thinking… this would be an awesome Sunday dinner!!!

    Thank you so much or the recipe and step by step!!!

    Love your blog. Have been reading it a few months, but posted first time tonight. Live in Rochester (suburb Greece) NY.

    • Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

      Didi-First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to comment–it makes my day when I get to hear from readers! I’m so glad you’ve been reading and enjoying Frugal Upstate. Secondly-I’m glad the recipe appeals to you! The whole family has enjoyed it. I’m thinking of making up the shells and then freezing them with the stuffing inside to see how they defrost :) That would make it a great meal to have on hand for busy times or if I wanted a meal for a family in need.

  2. Debra says

    We just finished this for dinner. I am the typical busy working mom, who is always looking for the magical convergence of cheap/easy/quick/nutritious dinners to make. The vast majority of my attempts at new recipes that meet any of the criteria are met with disgust by my children and/or husband. Well, it’s summertime, so I had the time to make the tuna shells, fully expecting my kids to hate it. Much to all of our surprise, they loved it and made me promise to make it again! I am floored. Thank you so much!

    • Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

      Debra-Oh I am sooo glad you guys enjoyed it! Isn’t it amazing how kids will surprise you with what they will and will not eat?

  3. says

    Just wondering about using a drained “tuna in water” rather than oil? What part does the oil play? I hardly ever buy the tuna-in-oil because of my family’s taste preferences!

    Otherwise, it all sound good!

    • says

      Ack! Sorry I never got back to you on this ellen-hope you subscribed to the comments! Long story short-the oil keeps it more moist and helps to spread the flavor. You could use just tuna in water but the flavor might not be as intense.

  4. Danielle says

    I made this for dinner tonight… My toddler actually ate it but I had to bribe him to eat it with Broccoli…his current favorite food. I made this with tuna in water, I didn’t add any oil. I used the juice from 1 lemon and didn’t add onion because my hubby doesn’t like it and for seasoning I used Italian seasoning and and a homemade version of tastefully simples garlic garlic. It was amazing, and I usually dislike tuna!


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