Everybody should know how to make a truly delicious Tuna Pasta Bake, for all those times when your cupboards are bare! www.recipetineats.com
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5 from 22 votes

Tuna Pasta Bake

Recipe video above. When the cupboards are bare, and all you have is canned tuna, pasta and canned tomato, you can still make a wickedly delicious dinner! Customise to your hearts content - add vegetables, fresh herbs, chilli flakes, stir through cheese, olives, capers, sun dried tomatoes - get creative! See note 9 for a lower cal version, and Tuna Mornay for a CREAMY version!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main
Cuisine: Australia, Western
Keyword: tuna pasta bake
Servings: 5
Calories: 411.66kcal
Author: Nagi


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 small onion , finely diced
  • 800g / 28 oz crushed tomato (Note 1)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (optional, thickens sauce slightly)
  • 3/4 cup (185ml) water (Note 2)
  • 1 tbsp Italian mixed herbs , or other dried herbs of choice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 425g / 15 oz can chunk tuna (preferably in oil), drained (Note 3)
  • 200g / 7 oz spiral pasta (or other pasta of choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups (150g) shredded mozzarella cheese (Note 4)
  • Olive Oil , for drizzling


  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  • Cook pasta per packet directions, minus 1 minute. Drain, rinse under tap water to stop it sticking together, set aside.
  • Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion, cook for 3 minutes until golden.
  • Add tomato, water, herbs, salt and pepper and tomato paste if using. Stir, bring to simmer, lower heat to medium and simmer energetically for 5 minutes (stir every now and then) until it thickens.
  • Adjust salt to taste. Also add a touch of sugar if it tastes a bit sour (depends on quality of tomato).
  • Turn the stove off, add pasta, stir in.
  • Add tuna and GENTLY stir it in - don't break up the tuna so it disintegrates into mush. Leave some chunks on the surface (nice when it is golden).
  • Drizzle with oil, top with cheese then bake for 20 minutes until golden and you get those nice crusty bits you see in the photos.
  • Stand for 3 minutes then serve!


1. Tomato - can substitute this with:
- 700g / 1.2 lb tomato passata or American Tomato Sauce (NOT Aussie / UK Tomato Sauce)
- 400g/14 oz crushed tomato + 1.5 cups chicken or vegetable broth + 3 tbsp tomato paste + 2 tsp sugar
2. Broth - If you have chicken or vegetable broth, that would be a terrific addition, or add a crumbled bouillon cube or 1 tsp chicken or vegetable powder.
3. Tuna - I find Tuna in oil has better flavour for a recipe like this, but any canned tuna or salmon is great for this recipe. "Chunk tuna" is my preferred because it comes in chunks which I think is nicer than the fragile tuna that disintegrates through the pasta.
4. Tomato paste thickens the sauce slightly which is what I used in the recipe I made for the photos. I did not use it in the recipe video - but you can see that it's still lovely and tomatoey, not watery and thin.
5. Topping - Try using 3/4 cup panko / breadcrumbs sprinkled with salt and drizzled with oil instead of cheese. Crunch is fantastic!
6. STEP IT UP A NOTCH: Finely chop 2 anchovies and add them in with the onion, they will disintegrate and add a savouriness that is no fishy at all. Add 1 tsp of red pepper flakes - or more if you dare! Use Chicken or vegetable broth in place of the water and stir through fresh basil with the pasta. This is no longer a basic pantry Tuna Pasta Bake, but I thought I'd share what I do if I am making an effort!
7. DIET TUNA PASTA BAKE - pursuant to reader request, here are recipe adjustments for a healthier version with 251 calories per serving (5 servings), 23g carbs: Reduce oil to 2 tsp, add 1 cup each finely chopped carrot and celery plus 1.5 cups diced zucchini with the onion and saute on low heat for 10 minutes until soft and sweet. Then proceed with recipe but REDUCE pasta to 100g/3.5 oz and stir through 2 handfuls of spinach when you add the pasta. Spray surface with oil then top with low fat mozzarella. Healthy AND delicious!!!
8. Make ahead - best way to make ahead for freezing:
  • cook and cool pasta
  • make sauce per recipe, add extra half cup water at end. Cool.
  • assemble per recipe, cover then freeze. Thaw before cooking.
Cooked leftovers - keep in the fridge 3 to 4 days and reheat in microwave.
9. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings.


Serving: 374g | Calories: 411.66kcal | Carbohydrates: 46.92g | Protein: 32.37g | Fat: 11.58g | Saturated Fat: 4.77g | Cholesterol: 55.62mg | Sodium: 1096.8mg | Potassium: 802.8mg | Fiber: 5.32g | Sugar: 9.69g | Vitamin A: 628.04IU | Vitamin C: 17.24mg | Calcium: 256.18mg | Iron: 4.67mg