The first dish I made in my new London flat is a Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake, which turned out really good, if I say so myself!
I’ve never tried this method before and I wish I could send you the amazing aroma coming from the kitchen! It really doesn’t have that ‘smelly tuna’ hint that non-tuna lovers dislike so much.
I had to make it in a foil container as I haven’t been able to bring all my dishes up yet. But I got this inspiration from a recipe I found on the BBC Food website – so try it out!
Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake Recipe
Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake
- 1 oven
- 250 g Dried Pasta any shape of your choice
- 50 g Butter
- 1 tablespoon of Plain Flour
- 2 x Cans of Tuna
- 1 Pint of Milk semi-skimmed or full fat
- 200 g Grated Cheddar Cheese
- 1 Green Pepper diced
- 5 Spring Onions diced
- 1 Small can of Sweetcorn in water – drained
- 1 teaspoon of Paprika or Mustard Powder depending on your taste
- Salt & Ground Peppercorns to season
- Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4.
- Cook and drain pasta.
- Heat the butter in a pan until melted and add the flour to thicken it. When mixed in well with a wooden spoon, gradually add the milk in parts to form a ‘béchamel’ type of sauce.
- Remove from heat and add most of the cheese (save enough to sprinkle on the top at the end).
- Add the diced vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the pasta to the mixture and also the contents of 1 can of Tuna.
- Get the dish you will be making the bake in and create a layer of Tuna at the bottom with the remaining can
- Spoon the mixture evenly on top of the Tuna layer and cover with the cheese you set aside before.
- Cook for approximately for 15 – 20 until the cheese is golden-brown.
Cooking tips Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake
First, selecting the right pasta is crucial; short, sturdy shapes like penne or fusilli are ideal as they hold up well under the weight of the sauce and tuna. Ensuring the pasta is cooked al dente is also important, as it will continue to cook in the oven, and overcooked pasta can become mushy.
The creaminess of the dish hinges on the white sauce. A roux-based sauce, made by whisking together butter and flour before adding milk, provides a thick and smooth foundation. For an extra dimension of flavor, consider infusing the milk with aromatics such as bay leaves or onion before blending it into the roux. Cheese is another component that can elevate the dish; a good quality sharp cheddar or gruyere can add depth, while a touch of parmesan imparts a savory umami note.
Incorporating the tuna requires a gentle hand to maintain its texture. It should be flaked and folded into the pasta and sauce mixture rather than stirred vigorously, which could break it down too much. If opting to include vegetables, they should be pre-cooked to the desired tenderness, as they won’t soften much during the baking process.
Finally, the topping should provide a contrast in texture. A combination of cheese and breadcrumbs, perhaps mixed with a little melted butter for richness, will create a satisfying crunch. Baking the dish until it’s just bubbly and browned on top avoids overcooking and drying out the interior, ensuring that each serving is moist and flavorful.
A simple, crisp green salad dressed with a light vinaigrette makes an excellent side, as it offers a refreshing counterpoint to the richness of the pasta bake. The acidity and crunch from the salad will cleanse the palate between bites, balancing the creaminess of the dish. For those looking to add more vegetables, steamed green beans or roasted asparagus also pair well, providing a tender yet firm texture alongside the soft pasta.
For a heartier meal, consider serving the pasta bake with a side of garlic bread. The aromatic garlic and the crunch of the toasted bread complement the creamy tuna filling beautifully. If catering to a larger group, a platter of mixed antipasti—such as olives, cured meats, and marinated vegetables—can turn the meal into a more substantial feast.
In terms of beverages, a white wine with good acidity, like a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio, can cut through the richness of the sauce. For a non-alcoholic option, a sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon or lime adds a similar refreshing touch.
Finally, when plating, a sprinkle of fresh herbs such as parsley or chives adds a pop of color and a burst of freshness to each serving. Not only does this enhance the visual appeal, but it also introduces a subtle layer of flavor that complements the creamy tuna and pasta.
Top 5 FAQs about Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake
- Can I use different types of pasta for the Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake? Yes, you can use various types of pasta. Short, sturdy shapes like penne, fusilli, or rotini are recommended because they hold the sauce well and maintain their texture during baking. It’s best to avoid long, thin pasta shapes as they may not support the weight of the other ingredients as effectively.
- Is it possible to make a gluten-free version of this dish? Absolutely, to make a gluten-free Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake, simply substitute the regular pasta with your favorite gluten-free pasta variety. Additionally, ensure that the flour used in the roux for the white sauce is replaced with a gluten-free alternative, and check that all other ingredients, such as canned tuna and cheese, are certified gluten-free.
- How can I prevent the pasta from becoming too soft when baked? To avoid overcooked pasta, boil it until it’s just al dente, which means it should still have a slight bite to it. Since the pasta will continue cooking in the oven, stopping the boiling process at al dente ensures it doesn’t become mushy after baking.
- Can I prepare Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake ahead of time? Yes, this dish can be prepared in advance. Assemble the bake up to the point before you would put it in the oven, then cover it with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate. When you’re ready to eat, you can bake it directly from the fridge, adding a few extra minutes to the cooking time to account for the cold starting temperature.
- What are some variations I can try with this recipe? There are numerous ways to vary the Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake. You can add different vegetables such as spinach, mushrooms, or diced bell peppers to the mix. Experimenting with different cheeses can also change the flavor profile; try mozzarella for a milder taste or a smoked cheese for added depth. For an extra crunch, consider adding a layer of crushed potato chips or fried onions on top before baking.
In conclusion, the Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake stands as a testament to the comfort and versatility that can be found in the simplicity of a casserole dish. It’s a recipe that invites personalization and experimentation, allowing for various adaptations to suit dietary needs or flavor preferences. The key to its success lies in the harmony of textures—from the al dente pasta to the creamy sauce and the crispy golden topping—each element playing its part to create a satisfying whole.
This dish is more than just a meal; it’s a canvas for creativity, a source of nourishment, and a reason to gather around the table. Whether you’re preparing it ahead of time for a busy weeknight or assembling it for a leisurely weekend dinner, the Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake is sure to provide warmth and enjoyment for those who partake. With the tips and serving suggestions provided, each forkful promises to be a delightful blend of comfort and flavor, making it a beloved addition to any home cook’s repertoire.