Tomato Tuna Pasta Bake
Tuna pasta bake is an absolute classic and this tomato version couldn’t be easier to make!
This tuna pasta bake is made for weeknight dinners. It’s horrendously easy to whip up, it’s fairly economical and it uses basic ingredients; all whilst still tasting absolutely delicious 😋 Follow me…
Tomato Tuna Pasta Bake Ingredients
The ingredients for tuna pasta bake are pretty straightforward. Here I’ve tried to strike a balance between packing in the flavour and keeping to what a tuna pasta bake should be – super simple. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Pasta – I love using Fusilli for this recipe, but any type of shortcut pasta will do the trick.
- Tuna – Canned tuna, drained.
- Passata – This is just pureed/strained tomatoes. It makes a nice thick, rich base for the sauce.
- Onion & Garlic – Base flavours, both finely diced.
- Pepper – Bulks out the pasta, whilst adding a little flavour too.
- Sun Dried Tomatoes – These also bulk out the pasta, but they also pack in a gorgeous flavour that really enhances the tomato flavour in this dish. Bonus – you can use the oil to fry the onion, pepper & garlic!
- Basil – I love using fresh basil. However, since this is a store-cupboard kind of recipe, you can sub dried basil. Other herbs like oregano also work nicely.
- Cheese – I use half cheddar (for a punch of flavour) and half mozzarella (for a glorious cheese pull!)
- Chilli Flakes – Adds a nice gentle background heat.
What kind of tuna to use?
As mentioned, canned tuna works great here. I typically use tuna in oil, but tuna in spring water or brine will work just fine. The main thing I recommend is using tuna chunks, as opposed to flakes. The chunks will hold much better in the sauce, whereas the flakes turn mushy.
Tomato Tuna Pasta
The tomato sauce itself is pretty straightforward. Just a few things to consider:
Simmering the sauce
Important to simmer the sauce for around 20mins. This will not only help thicken the sauce slightly, but most importantly it gives chance for the flavours to marry together.
Al Dente Pasta
As with all pasta bakes, you’ll want to slightly undercook the pasta. The pasta will continue soaking in moisture as it bakes, so just knock a minute or so off cooking time so it’s al dente before mixing with the sauce.
Over-mixing the tuna
I add the tuna in at the last step. You certainly don’t want to simmer it with the sauce, because it’ll practically disintegrate. When you do mix it in at the end, don’t go overboard otherwise the tuna will turn to mush. A few chunks here and there are fine 🙂
Process shots: fry onion and pepper (photo 1), fry sun dried tomatoes and garlic (photo 2), pour in passata (photo 3), add basil, chilli flakes and seasoning (photo 4), stir then simmer (photo 5), add pasta (photo 6), stir to combine (photo 7), gently mix in tuna (photo 8).
Tomato Tuna Pasta Bake
Once everything is mixed and good to go, grab yourself a baking dish get stacking:
- Layer 1 – Half of the pasta.
- Layer 2 – Mozzarella.
- Layer 3 – Second half of the pasta.
- Layer 4 – Cheddar.
That way the cheese can run through the pasta, instead of all being on top. The mozzarella turns perfectly gooey in the centre, whilst the cheddar goes golden and bubbly on top!
Tomato Tuna Pasta Bake FAQ
Can I prepare this ahead of time?
I prefer this fresh, but you can prep ahead if you need to. I just find it comes out slightly drier. Just allow the pasta and sauce to cool before combining, then stack and tightly cover in the fridge. Bring to room temp before baking.
Can this be frozen?
Same as above, but just tightly store in the freezer. Thaw in the fridge then bring to room temp and bake.
What can I do with leftovers?
Allow to cool and tightly store in the fridge for a few days. Reheat until piping hot!
Serving Tuna Pasta Bake
Once it’s bubbling out of the oven, just let it rest for a couple of mins to calm down (or you’ll lose the roof of your mouth!) then sprinkle with leftover basil and enjoy! This is perfect by itself but even better with some Garlic Bread 😉
For the CREAMY version of tuna pasta bake check out my Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake!
Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this tomato tuna pasta bake shall we?!
How to make Tomato Tuna Pasta Bake (Full Recipe & Video)
Tomato Tuna Pasta Bake
- Large Deep Pan & Wooden Spoon (for sauce)
- Large Pot & Colander (for cooking pasta)
- 9″ x 9″ Baking Dish (or similar size) (for baking)
- Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
- Cheese Grater
- 14oz / 400g Fusilli (or shortcut pasta of choice)
- 4 cups / 1kg Tomato Passata (pureed/strained tomatoes in US)
- 2x 5oz/145g cans of Tuna Chunks, drained (see notes)
- 1 cup / 100g EACH: shredded Mozzarella, grated Cheddar
- 1 cup / 125g Sun Dried Tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 medium Red Pepper, finely diced (bell pepper)
- 1 medium White Onion, finely diced
- 2 fat cloves of Garlic, finely diced
- 1 small bunch (approx 1oz/30g) Fresh Basil, finely diced (save some to garnish)
- 1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes, or to spice preference (1/2 tsp gives very gentle kick of spice)
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil, or 1 tbsp oil from sun dried tomatoes
- pinch of Sugar
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- In a large deep pan over medium heat add 1 tbsp oil. Add onion & pepper and fry until soft and just starting to pick up colour. Add in sun dried tomatoes & garlic and fry for another couple of mins.
- Pour in tomato passata, then add in basil, chilli flakes, a pinch of sugar (to balance out the sourness of the tomatoes) and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Give it a stir, then reduce to a low simmer for 20mins, stirring occasionally. This is important to marry the flavours together.
- About 8mins before the sauce is done, pop your pasta in salted boiling and cook until al dente (take a min or so off cooking, you want it a touch hard).
- Combine drained pasta with sauce, then add tuna chunks. Gently toss in the tuna (don’t be too aggressive or the tuna turns to mush).
- Add half of the pasta to a baking dish, followed by a layer of mozzarella, followed by the rest of the pasta, then finish with a layer of cheddar. Bake in the oven at 200C/390F for 15-20mins or until golden and bubbly.
- Serve with any leftover basil, then tuck in and enjoy!
b) Basil – The fresh basil adds heaps of flavour and works as a nice garnish too. This is a fairly economical recipe though, so if you’ve only got dried that’ll work. I recommend around 2 tsp worth. Oregano is also nice, or a mix of both!
c) Can I prep this ahead of time? – This is best made fresh. I find prepping ahead drys out the sauce a little. Not a huge issue though, so if you wanted to prep ahead of time just let both the sauce and pasta cool, then stack and tightly cover in the fridge. Allow to come back to room temp before baking, just so it cooks evenly through the centre. If you are prepping ahead remember just slightly undercook the pasta.
d) Can I freeze this? – Same as above, just tightly store in the freezer for 1month, then thaw in the fridge and bring to room temp.
e) Storage/Leftovers – Allow leftovers to completely cool, then tightly store in the fridge for 2-3days. I then usually reheat in the microwave until piping hot again.
f) – For the CREAMY version of tuna pasta bake check out my Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake!
g) Calories – Whole recipe divided by 5.
For more similar recipes check out these beauties:
Pasta Bake Recipes
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