This is one of the first recipes my dad ever taught me to make. Of course he’d never make anything straight out of the box without a bit of doctoring up. Tuna mac ‘n peas started as a go-to after-school meal and became one of my college staples. Now it’s one of my favorite comfort foods—and a Wachowiak-family tradition. The secret? A deliciously crunchy topping of french-fried onions.
You can make this delicacy with pretty much any boxed mac ‘n cheese, but lately I’ve preferred Annie’s Homegrown brand—mostly because the word “organic” makes me feel a bit better about adding some extra butter to this dairy-heavy dish.
I’ll admit that tomatoes weren’t part of the original recipe, but I like to throw one in when I have one lying around. I’ve never tried it with avocado, but I’m sure that’d be a winner, too (although if you want to go full avocado, try this stellar recipe for avocado mac and cheese).
A (slightly) grown-up version of a childhood staple.
- 2 6-oz. boxes of macaroni and cheese
- 6 cups water
- Milk (as called for on boxes of macaroni and cheese)
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 5-oz. cans of tuna packed in water
- 1/2 cup of frozen peas
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 cup of french-fried onions
- Optional: 1 medium tomato, diced
- Optional: Sriracha
- Boil the water in a large saucepan. Once the water is boiling, add in the noodles from both boxes of macaroni and cheese and cook according to the directions on the box. While the noodles are cooking, drain both cans of tuna and chop the tomato (if using).
- Once the noodles are done, drain them and return them to the saucepan. Add in the butter, milk, powdered cheese from the box, tuna, peas, all seasonings, and tomato. Stir until mixed well and butter is completely melted. If butter is slow to melt, turn the stove burner on low and stir frequently until it's melted.
- Serve immediately, sprinkling in a handful of french-fried onions and a few dabs of sriracha, if desired.
A quick word on the ages-old mac ‘n cheese debate: powdered cheese vs. Velveeta-style squeeze cheese. For this recipe, either one works (just omit the butter and milk), but I usually opt for powdered cheese out of sentimentality.
But maybe don’t feed your baby too much mac ‘n cheese.
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