How to Make Tuna Pasta Bake

Tuna pasta bake is a classic comfort food dish that’s easy to make and always a crowd pleaser. With its creamy sauce, tender pasta and savoury tuna, this baked pasta casserole is the ultimate family dinner. In this guide, I’ll walk you through how to make tuna pasta bake step-by-step, along with tips for customising it to your taste. Let’s get started!

Get Your Ingredients

The first step is gathering your ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make a basic tuna pasta bake serving 4 people:

  • 250g pasta shapes (penne, macaroni or spirals work well)
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 400g tin tuna in springwater, drained
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 150g frozen sweetcorn
  • 300ml double cream
  • 50g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 50g breadcrumbs

You can use any short pasta shapes like macaroni, penne or fusilli. Make sure the pasta is dry, not fresh. Having the onion, garlic, tuna, tomatoes and sweetcorn prepped ahead of time makes putting everything together faster. And of course, you’ll need the cheese and breadcrumbs for that crispy topping.

Make the Cheese Sauce

The rich, indulgent cheese sauce is what really makes this baked pasta dish special. To make the sauce:

  1. Melt 25g butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook for 5 minutes until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the double cream, then add the grated cheddar a handful at a time, stirring constantly until melted and smooth.
  4. Remove from heat once the sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

The key is adding the cheese gradually while the sauce simmers to form a smooth emulsion. This prevents the cheese from clumping.

Cook the Pasta

While the sauce cooks, get the pasta cooking.

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  2. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions until al dente.
  3. Drain the pasta thoroughly to remove excess water.

You want the pasta to be just shy of fully cooked since it will continue cooking in the oven. Draining it well prevents the dish from getting watery.

Assemble the Bake

Now it’s time to bring everything together!

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
  2. In a large baking dish, combine the cooked pasta, tuna, chopped tomatoes, sweetcorn and cheese sauce. Gently fold together until evenly mixed.
  3. Sprinkle the grated cheese and breadcrumbs evenly over the top.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes until bubbling and the top is golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Enjoy!

The assembly is easy – just mix everything in a baking dish and top with the cheese and crumbs. Baking uncovered helps the topping brown.

Customise It!

Once you’ve mastered the basics, try these easy ways to customise tuna pasta bake to your taste:

  • Stir in chopped spinach or kale for extra veggies
  • Add drained peas or broccoli florets for more colour
  • Use different cheeses like gruy√®re or fontina for the sauce
  • Season with Italian herbs, paprika or cayenne pepper
  • Top with crushed potato chips or fried shallots before baking
  • Make it lower fat by using reduced-fat cream cheese in the sauce

You can transform this classic into so many delicious variations. Use up bits and bobs lingering in your fridge to give the dish your personal flair.

Fun Facts About Tuna Pasta Bake

Tuna pasta bake has been around since the 1950s when canned tuna became widely available. It’s been a budget-friendly family meal for generations. Here are some fun facts:

  • During the rationing of WWII, tuna pasta bakes were made using tinned spam instead of tuna when fish was scarce.
  • To make it more filling, a mashed potato topping was sometimes used in place of breadcrumbs.
  • Tuna pasta bake became popular in the UK after rising Italian immigration post-WWII introduced new pasta dishes.
  • Adding peas to the dish likely originated to get kids to eat more veg!
  • In the 1980s Nigella Lawson helped popularise tuna bakes into a comfort food favourite.
  • According to a BBC Good Food poll, tuna pasta bake is the UK’s 3rd most popular pasta dish.

Whether you’re a novice cook or a pro chef, tuna pasta bake is a simple and satisfying meal. Now that you know how to make it, give this British classic a try tonight! The creamy tuna and tomato sauce mingled with pasta is comfort food at its best.