FRIDAY FISH: Tuna-Asparagus Pasta Chowder

You adore clam chowder but your cupboard is full of tuna. It’s ok; I’ve got it covered. You can still have chowder–with tuna!! Does it work? Yes, yes; it totally does. And is it yummy? It definitely is. I thought about making chowder with canned tuna for a long time before I did it, but now that I have, it’s in my playbook for good. Tuna Chowder is easy, inexpensive, and even qualifies for what we’d call, “Cheap Eats.” This version adds some tiny ditalini pasta for fun and texture, but if you don’t like it, just add extra potatoes and you’ll be fine. Last time I cooked shrimp, I saved the shells in my freezer and was able to make a fast shrimp stock to bolster the flavor of the chowder. (Buying fish stock is above my pay grade at $3 a 15-ounce can. You can make it, though.) Vegetable broth is ok, too, and is better when spiked with a little clam juice, which is sold right near tuna at the store. Even chicken broth works in a pinch.

Jump to Recipe

This is my eighth year featuring seven weeks of FRIDAY FISH during Lent and whenever I can, I try to make something new with a variety of canned fish — the easiest always being tuna, of course. While salmon and shrimp and fresh fish are wonderful catches (nice pun, huh?), they are a hard hit on the wallet. Canned tuna, while up in price like everything else, is still a value and serious bargain compared to other (not-plant based) protein sources. Scroll down for some other canned tuna recipes on More Time.

Last year’s Tuna Stew on Cheddar-Dill Biscuits was a turning point for my tuna recipes because while there are boatloads (there we go again!) of tuna casseroles, I was interested in other hot dishes I could make with a trusty 7, 61/2, 6, 5-ounce can or two. (Yes, you remember rightly. Once upon a time a 7-ounce can of tuna easily fed 3-4 people; it’s not so easy these days with a can a fraction of that size.) My husband isn’t a huge fan of tuna casserole, even the good kind with potato chips on top. But the stew on fluffy biscuits or this chowder with his favorite oyster crackers? He’s happy as a clam tuna. You will be, too, when you try this:

FRIDAY FISH: Tuna-Asparagus Pasta Chowder

Many a hearty meal can be cooked using canned tuna! If you’re a chowder fan, but only have tuna on hand, you’re in fine fettle today. Using a basic clam chowder footprint, here we sauté a few vegetables, add some shrimp or vegetable stock, two cans of tuna, asparagus, potatoes, and tiny pasta, a little milk whisked together with flour, et voila, yummy chow-dah!! Save a buck and skip another Friday Fish tuna salad sandwich night.
8 servings


  • 1 tablespoon EACH olive oil and salted butter
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • Medium onion cut into small dice
  • 2 EACH: minced cloves garlic; medium carrots and stalks celery with leaves cut into small dice
  • ¾ teaspoon EACH: kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, dry thyme, dill weed, crushed rosemary
  • Small handful minced fresh parsley plus extra for garnish
  • Bay leaf
  • ½ cup dry white wine, can sub stock
  • 3 quarts homemade fish or shrimp stock or a combination of vegetable broth and clam juice, or chicken broth as a last, but still useful choice (see below for directions to make shrimp stock)
  • 2 medium unpeeled red potatoes cut into small dice, about 1 cup potatoes
  • ½ cup small pasta such as ditalini or macaroni
  • 2 (5-ounce) cans tuna, undrained unless in oil, then drain—broken up with pastry blender or fork and seasoned with a pinch each salt and pepper
  • ½ pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced into ½-inch pieces. Reserve tips to sauté for garnish
  • ¼ cup EACH frozen corn and peas
  • 1 cup whole milk whisked together with 3 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour and a few drops of hot sauce (can sub half and half or heavy cream)
  • 1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese for garnish, about 4 ounces


  • SAUTÉ VEGETABLES: Heat oil, butter, and crushed red pepper for a minute over medium flame in an 8-quart soup pot. Add onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. Stir in spices, herbs, and bay leaf. Cover and cook, stirring often, for 7-8 minutes or until softened. Pour in wine and cook two minutes or until wine is nearly absorbed.
  • ADD STOCK/BRING TO A BOIL/ADD POTATOES, PASTA, AND TUNA and reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes or until nearly tender. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • SAUTÉ ASPARAGUS TIPS IN A SKILLET/SET ASIDE: Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-high flame with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add asparagus tips, season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and sauté, stirring, for a minute or two. Remove from heat and reserve. (In a pinch, skip the sauté, slice them thinly, and use raw.)
  • ADD THE OTHER ASPARAGUS PIECES, CORN, AND PEAS TO THE SOUP POT and simmer until all vegetables are tender—another 3-4 minutes. Stir in milk mixture and cook at a low simmer, stirring often, for a few minutes until thickened. Do not boil. Taste and adjust seasonings one last time.
  • SERVE HOT WITH GARNISHES: Ladle into bowls and top with reserved minced parsley, grated Cheddar, and reserved sautéed asparagus tips. Serve with oyster crackers or saltines.
    STORAGE: Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently over low heat without boiling. Do not freeze or, if you do, freeze the chowder before you add milk. Thaw, heat, and whisk in milk slurry at that point.


SHRIMP STOCK: If you’ve a few cups frozen shrimp shells in the freezer, dump them into a 6-quart stock pot along with a chopped onion, its peels and ends, a chopped carrot, a chopped celery stalk, some parsley, a bay leaf, a teaspoon of kosher salt and a teaspoon of peppercorns (and any other fresh vegetables you have with the exception of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage or broccoli, etc.), a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and cook over medium flame, stirring often, until the shells are defrosted and everything is quite warm. Add water to cover plus two inches and bring a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook about 15 minutes. Strain in the sink into another pot, pressing on the solids to extract extra flavor.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2022. All rights reserved.
Post/Recipe for Tuna Stew….
My current favorite canned tuna is $18.99 for six cans at COSTCO. No water. No oil. More tuna for your buck.


  • List of Pasta (including soup pasta)/WIKIPEDIA
  • What is Chowder? Is Chowder Different from Soup?/TASTEOFHOME
  • Use white rice instead of pasta (needs double the cooking time).
  • Swap in wild rice for pasta +/or potatoes. You’ll need to cook it ahead and add it already done as it takes 45 minutes.
  • Skip pasta and add an extra cup of diced potato or sweet potato.
  • This is a brothy chowder. Want a thicker version? Whisk in 1/4-1/3 cup flour into the milk. You can also use heavy cream for a richer broth.
  • Less fat? Use skim milk or skip milk all together. Sauté vegetables in first step using a cooking spray instead of butter and oil.
  • The vegetable choices are easily changed depending on what you have. Use chopped green beans, diced zucchini, or chopped broccoli or cauliflower florets instead of asparagus, for instance.
  • Keep the ends of the asparagus, onions, celery, etc., in the freezer for stock or do what I did in this case, which was throw them into the shrimp stock I made right before the soup.
  • So many garnishes would be great here. Swap in grated Parmagiano-Reggiano, Swiss, or Gruyere for the Cheddar. Add simple croutons or chopped toasted nuts. Use fresh thyme or chives in place of the parsley. How about green onions or scallions sliced thinly on the bias? Diced red bell peppers or cherry tomatoes? Soup craves garnish for texture, interest, color, and flavor.
  • This soup isn’t one I’d freeze since it contains milk; it’s likely to curdle or separate. If you don’t need it all, cut the recipe in half or share. If you’d really like to freeze it, make it up until the point of adding the milk, chill, and freeze in a tightly-covered container. Thaw in refrigerator, bring to a simmer on stove, and add the milk slurry at that point.

If you liked this, you might also like my:


…in which we clean up nicely

or read up here about a few of my favorite canned tuna posts on More Time.


Returning to the real world after a week on a cruise ship is rough. No more knock-knock-knock on the door at 7am to bring hot coffee to me. And every day when I wake up, I’m still in the same place. Yesterday, I had to go to the grocery store and cook dinner. And do laundry.

I know; woe is me. Believe me, I’m infinitely grateful for it all, though admit I missed not one single household chore–including cooking. Rarely do I snap photos of food in restaurants. I’m more interested in talking with my husband, watching the crowd and staff, and eating anything someone else cooked. I also think it’s a little boorish to keep the camera clicking during a meal. (Let’s face it, I’m snapping away at home all year long and need a break.) But this zucchini soup caught my fancy even if I didn’t get a great shot of it. Holland America, our favorite cruise line, tends to serve soup by adding solids to a bowl or cup and then pouring hot broth from a cast iron or ceramic kettle in order to make sure a thousand people in a row get hot soup that isn’t overcooked. This time, the dining room steward added julienned green apple to my bowl before adding the rest of the soup. I’ve made a lot of zucchini soup over the years and just adored their version. The soup, while creamy, was light and refreshing — a perfect first course. If they’d weighed it down with heavy cream, the soup would have lost its interest in a sea of fat. I’d also have been full before the main course was served.

We did a one-week California Coastal cruise round trip San Diego and couldn’t have had a better time. Did I think about the blog? Maybe a time or two…

Walking around on Santa Catalina Island–46 miles west of L.A.
Docking at the Embarcadero for a two-day stay in San Francisco. We had just gone under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Back on the mesa in Colorado, we’re in the midst of some welcome spring rain and snow along with intermittent fire danger. In the front yard, daffodils are peeking up through the mulch. It’s still Lent and there’s time for another couple of Friday Fishes. I’m thinking about it all as we enjoy the leftovers from this week’s soup.

As always, thanks for keeping me company in the kitchen.

Stay well and cook some chowder, will you?


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