This healthy tuna pasta bake uses frozen veggies, tinned tuna and al dente pasta all tossed in a creamy mornay sauce and baked over with cheese. A cheap, easy tuna pasta casserole that's ready in 30 minutes.
Pasta is such a reliable go-to quick dinner and this cheesy pasta bake is no exception. You should also try these other pasta bakes like the vegetarian stuffed pasta shells, the veggie pasta bake, and the 30-minute cheesy baked tortellini.
This cheesy tuna pasta bake has got the creamiest cheese sauce mixed in with frozen peas and sweetcorn and perfectly chewy penne. The mixed spice and the mustard bring a hint of warmth and the butter keeps everything silky smooth. It's the tuna pasta bake that everyone will love.
Why This Recipe Works
- The flour, butter, and milk replace cream or cream cheese meaning you save money on luxury ingredients and save lots of fat and calories.
- By using half vegetable stock in the cheese sauce we're making it much lighter than using cream or all milk.
- Using frozen veggies means that you probably already have all the ingredients you need to make this pasta bake.
- You can modify the ingredients like the type of cheese and the type of pasta you use, making this really adaptable to what you have on hand.
- It freezes and reheats like a dream so it's perfect as part of meal prep or for just making ahead.
- tinned or canned tuna packed in water *be sure it's packed in water not oil.
- tinned or frozen peas and sweetcorn
- penne or other short pasta like rigatoni or fusili
- mixed spice and English mustard- these flavours are both classic additions to mornay sauce and accompany fish beautifully
- flour and butter- the base of the cheese sauce- you can use margarine or dairy free spread
- cheddar cheese- or other melty cheese
- garlic- a little goes a very long way in this recipe and we only need 1 clove
- vegetable stock made from a stock cube- we're using half stock and half milk to make the cheese sauce.
- fresh parsley
See the recipe card for quantities.
Step By Step Instructions
1 & 2
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside while you make the cheese sauce.
- In a heavy bottom pan, cast iron, or a high-sided frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic to melted butter and cook gently for about 3-5 minutes until the garlic is soft and fragrant.
- Whisk the flour into the melted butter. It will turn to a thick paste also known as a roux. Cook the roux for about 2 minutes. This is to cook out the raw flour taste.
3 & 4
- Pour in the milk and the vegetable stock whisking continuously to avoid lumps of flour forming. Bring to a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken the sauce.
- Stir in the frozen/ tinned veggies and the parsley. Add in some of the cheese and let it melt. Stir in the drained can of tuna and stir well to coat everything.
5 & 6
- Taste and adjust the seasoning of the sauce. Add in the mustard and the mixed spice. Stir in the drained pasta and toss to coat all the noodles.
- Top the penne with the remaining shredded cheese and bake in the preheated oven until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese topping is melted and golden brown.
Hint: using a cast iron pan makes it really easy to go from stove top to oven to table. A skillet or a casserole dish is perfect for this.
Absolutely. Because this is a roux-based cheese sauce it will freeze and defrost without any texture changes making it perfect for freezing. Simply divide leftovers between airtight containers with tight-fitting lids and freeze for up to 2 months.
Remove from the freezer and place in the fridge overnight to defrost. Place the defrosted casserole into an oven-safe dish and cover with foil. Heat in an oven preheated to about 350f for 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the pasta is hot.
Wholewheat is a great healthy switch for the white pasta. It's high in fiber and protein. It takes a little longer to cook than white pasta so be sure to check the texture before draining it.
Substitutions & Variations
This cheesy tuna pasta casserole is highly adaptable. Below are some of the variations that can be made. They're a starting idea. If you have your own twists then leave a comment and let me know.
- Stock - instead of using stock in tuna pasta casserole you can use water. Just be sure to check and add extra seasoning if you need to.
- Cheese - I've used cheddar, but you can substitute any kind of melting cheese. Mozzarella or Swiss are great melty cheeses that work well here.
- Vegetables - this pasta bake really is great for cleaning out the vegetable drawer in your fridge. Add in broccoli, cauliflower, courgette (zucchini) and mushrooms.
- Breadcrumbs- It's traditional to top a tuna pasta bake with breadcrumbs to give some real crunch to the texture.
- Make it gluten-free- use gluten free pasta and gluten-free flour to make the roux sauce.
- Milk- unsweetened almond milk works as a great substitute here. Stay away from soy milk which tends to be quite sweet.
This recipe requires only minimal equipment that you already have.
- Oven safe dish- this cast iron one is what I use.
- Microplane for grating the garlic
- Wooden spoon for making the sauce
- Sauce whisk
In the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
For reheating instructions see FAQ section above.
Don't over-mix the tuna. You want nice large chunks throughout the pasta.
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Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake
- 500 g (4 ⅕ cups) dried penne, cooked according to the package instructions
- 100 g (⅖ cups) butter
- 2 cloves (2 cloves) garlic, minced
- 100 g (¾ cups) flour
- 425 (1 ⅔ cups) milk, any type (whole, skim, etc)
- 250 g (1 cups) vegetable stock or water, made from a stock cube
- 250 g (2 cups) shredded mature cheddar
- 1 (1) tin tuna packed in water, drained
- ½ (½) bunch fresh parsley, chopped
- pinch (pinch) mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) English mustard
- 100 g frozen peas
- 100 g frozen sweet corn
- First, start by boiling some pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside while you make the sauce. Preheat the oven to 180c.
- Melt the butter in an oven-safe dish and garlic. Let it soften gently in the butter for 3-5 minutes until its fragrant. Once the garlic is fragrant add in the flour and whisk to a paste.
- Once you've whisked the butter and flour to a paste and cooked it out for about 5 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste, gently and slowly pour in the milk and vegetable stock. Whisk continuously to avoid lumps in the flour. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes to thicken the sauce. Stir occasionally so the sauce doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan. Once the sauce is smooth, thick, and creamy stir in the frozen peas, drained sweet corn, and chopped parsley. Add the mustard and mixed spice. Stir half the cheese into the sauce and reserve the other half for topping the pasta and baking. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Drain the tuna and fold it in leaving any large chunks. Toss the pasta in the sauce and make sure that every noodle is coated evenly. Scatter the remaining cheese over the top of the pasta and bake in the preheated oven until the pasta is hot all the way through and the cheese is melted, golde,n and bubbling, about 20 minutes.