All home cooks appreciate the ease of accomplishment of doing dinner the one-pot way. When your family is busy and going in a million different directions, being able to make dinner in one pot, plunk down a salad and yell, "Dinner!" in the time it takes to boil pasta is critical mass for any hectic family's arsenal of timesaving tricks.

More than 10 years ago, I entered a cooking contest called Not Your Mother's Tuna Casserole. They were looking for a newer, hipper tuna casserole recipe, not that kind we all hated as kids with nasty canned peas or cream of mushroom soup.

The rules of the contest had the following criteria: one pot, no canned soups (had to mention it again — you know how I feel about canned soups!) but you could use one convenience food. Interestingly, I had a recipe that I had made up one night when inspiration and ingredients were both lacking. It met all of the above-mentioned guidelines and, in fact, had become so popular with my kids that they requested it more than once for their birthday dinners! So on a lark, I entered the contest.

When I won, I decided fate was calling me and became a cookbook author. And, well, the rest is history! So without further adieu, here's the Grand Prize winner in all her glory. Enjoy the fruit of my first labor!


1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, with a splash of vegetable oil (so the butter won't burn)

1 box white cheddar macaroni and cheese (not the neon orange stuff)

1/2 onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 (6-ounce) can solid white albacore tuna, drained

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup skim milk

1 cup saltine cracker crumbs

1 cup cheddar cheese, low-fat, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil water to make boxed macaroni and cheese. Cook pasta and drain. In the meantime, chop onion, open and drain tuna, lightly grease a 2-quart casserole dish and get ready to launch into tuna casserole land.

In the same pot you cooked your pasta, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter, with a splash of vegetable oil. Now saute the onion and, as it turns clear, add the drained tuna. Then add the milk, 2 tablespoons butter and sauce packet from the box and cook till it thickens. Mix everything together except the saltines and cheddar and stick in the prepared casserole dish. Top with saltines, then the cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes, give or take, until the cheese is nice and bubbly on top. Serves 4.

COOKING NOTE: Make sure you use only solid white albacore packed in water. That cheapie stuff smells like cat food and will ruin the dish!

Leanne Ely, aka Dinner Diva, is the author of the best-selling "Saving Dinner" and "Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way" (Ballantine). What's for dinner? Go to and find the solution!