Posted by: Erica Retrochef | March 3, 2014

Tuna and Mushroom Spaghetti Dinner

Some parents look for sneaky ways to put vegetables in food to trick their kids into eating them. I, on the other hand, look for sneaky retro recipes that resemble modern ones to trick my kids into eating them. So when I ran across this, which just looks like plain old spaghetti but actually has tuna fish and corn mixed in, how could I possibly not make it?



1 pkg. Chef Boy-ar-dee Complete Spaghetti Dinner with Mushroom Sauce
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 can tuna
1/3 cup canned corn
2 tablespoons canned corn liquid
2 tablespoons sliced black olives

Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain well. Toss spaghetti with butter, parsley and canned grated cheese (from dinner). Pack into 1-quart ring mold. Bake 10 minutes in 425° oven. Meanwhile, mix spaghetti sauce with mushrooms together with remaining ingredients. Heat thoroughly. Unmold spaghetti on large platter and top with hot tuna sauce. Serves 4.


You can’t actually get a Complete Spaghetti Dinner anymore. I assume this is basic market forces at work: it is so simple to buy a box of spaghetti and a jar of sauce that boxing them together doesn’t add much value for most people. But it’s kind of nice to watch the old commercials…

(Side note — in 1953, this was Chef Boy-AR-dee. By 1980, I remember hearing Chef Boy-ar-DEE.)


Have you ever seen a recipe that called for canned corn liquid? Me neither. It was such an unusual thing that I’d started to drain the corn into the sink before I said a very bad word and tipped it back upright — luckily saving just enough for the recipe.


I put all the sauce ingredients together in the pan, and then just stared at it and laughed for a while. What on earth is this going to turn into?


The spaghetti looks much more conventional, herbs and cheese and pasta.


But of course, we have to put it into a ring mold, because this wouldn’t be an insane retro recipe without a ring mold.


Despite all the butter, nearly half the spaghetti stuck in the mold — because of the cheese.


So the result was not a nice firm ring so much as a pile of pasta. This was hilarious because I could have gotten the exact same effect from just dumping the pasta on a plate.


WHAT. THE. HECK. This tasted good. Corn, tuna fish, olives, and all, this had a nice meaty consistency and some pleasant crunch and sweetness from the corn. I am utterly and completely flabbergasted. It wasn’t foolproof (the Chef thought I’d be able to bake a nice ring of spaghetti, remember — and it looked insane!), but the flavor was fine.

I did, however, need to drain off a couple tablespoons of liquid after putting the sauce onto the spaghetti. I can only assume this was some combination of corn juice and tomato sauce…

The absurd spaghetti idea comes to you via the Flickr stream of bluwmongoose.


  1. Tuna spaghetti sauce actually IS in the classic repetoire of Italian cookery. Like a lot of mid-century recipes, this is a real thing sort of simplified for the American home cook. And so it turned out good 😀

    • I can understand tuna spaghetti sauce… But corn? Ha!

    • “Tuna spaghetti sauce actually IS in the classic repertoire of Italian cookery”

      Yes, it is, indeed.

  2. That’s the ‘murican part!

  3. Excellent. Do you remember the Chef Boyardee pizza kits?
    Do they still make those?
    The fact that your noodle ring didn’t work makes me sad.

    • The noodle ring was disappointing. I spent a long time holding it up with spaghetti dangling from the mold saying “WHAT. WHAT!”

      I don’t know about the pizza kits, I will try to find one if there’s an associated retro recipe though! 🙂

  4. Butting in here again…Chef Boyardee DOES still sell a little box called a “pizza kit”. Don’t expect too much! It’s more of a novelty than delicious pizza. But Chef Boyardee DOES sell a little box, “spaghetti kit”. It contains some lengths of spaghetti, a packet of powdered sauce (no mushrooms, alas) and you add a can or two of tomato paste to make the sauce. Again, don’t expect too much!

  5. There actually was a Chef Ettore Boiardi who started the brand in the Twenties; I never believed in a real Chef when I was a kid…

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