This creamy tuna pasta bake recipe is a comforting classic family dinner on the table in 45 minutes. Pasta is mixed with a homemade creamy sauce, tuna and sweetcorn, sprinkled with cheese then baked until golden in this versatile recipe.
This easy tuna pasta bake casserole – or tuna mornay – is my go to recipe when I am stuck for what to make for dinner or am due a trip to the shops and have nothing in the fridge. Made with basic pantry ingredients, this family friendly budget dinner takes just 10 minutes to prepare. It’s creamy, cheesy and everyone goes back for second helpings!
Whilst we love tuna pesto pasta and the simple one pot tomato pasta, there is something comforting about a pasta bake – there are never any leftovers of my sweetcorn mac and cheese, or pesto lasagna.
Why we love this recipe
- Economical Dinner – like my tuna and cauliflower pasta bake, this simple pasta bake uses tinned tuna, one of my favourite budget friendly ingredients. From tuna nachos to tuna melt croissants, it makes easy lunches and dinners.
- This simple pasta bake is an easy family dinner that takes 10 minutes to prepare. You can also make the sauce and cook the pasta up to 3 days ahead, store in the fridge and then mix and bake for a fuss free dinner on busy weeknights.
- This creamy pasta bake is toddler and kid friendly – my 5 year old has been enjoying every spoonful for years.
- Easy recipe that you can customise to what you have in – or what leftovers are sat in the fridge and need using up. I find this pasta bake a great base recipe to add to: if there are any leftover cooked veggies in the fridge like cooked broccoli or cauliflower, or some roasted vegetables I add them into the sauce with the tuna.
- Tuna mornay pasta bake is easily halved to feed 2, or you can double the recipe to feed a crowd.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for ingredient quantities.
- Pasta – I tend to make this tuna bake with spirals or penne pasta, however you can use any dried pasta shapes in this pasta bake, from macaroni to ziti. You can even make it with smaller pasta shapes such as orzo / risoni.
- Butter – you can use salted or unsalted butter, or use margarine.
- Plain flour – all purpose flour
- Milk – I use full fat milk as that’s the milk we always have in the fridge, but you can use half fat milk. You can also make this sauce using half milk and half homemade vegetable stock to keep the cost down.
- Tinned tuna – tinned or canned tuna. Use an unflavoured tuna in water or in oil, and tuna chunks rather than tuna flakes.
- Tinned sweetcorn – tinned / canned sweetcorn or frozen sweetcorn.
- Worcestershire sauce – this sweet and tangy sauce is optional, but adds a unami taste to the sauce.
- Cheese – grated cheddar or tasty block cheese, grated.
How to make tuna pasta bake from scratch
Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for the full recipe.
- Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the flour until well combined and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. TIP: This helps cook the flour and stops the sauce from having a raw flour taste.
- Add the milk a little at a time, using a balloon whisk to whisk the sauce in between. With the first addition of milk it will still look lumpy (like the image below). Don’t worry!
- Add all the milk and whisk with a balloon whisk whilst cooking for 4-5 minutes, until the sauce has thickened
- Add the Worcestershire sauce, if using, grated cheese and then lightly stir in the drained tuna and drained sweetcorn.
- Tip the drained cooked pasta into the sauce and stir well to combine.
- Pour the pasta and sauce in to an 28 cm x 21cm (11 x 8 inch) oven proof dish, and sprinkle with optional extra grated cheese.
- Place the pasta bake in the preheated oven for until the top is bubbling and golden. Leave for a couple of minutes before serving – it’s super hot!
The sauce you make should be thick. Also, make sure you drain the pasta, tuna and sweetcorn well to avoid adding too much extra liquid to the pasta bake.
Yes! Tuna pasta bake freezes well. Freeze for up to 3 months then defrost in the fridge overnight. It’s best reheated in the microwave. If you reheat it on the stove or in the oven you will need to add a little more liquid.
Yes! Although it won’t have the crispy cheesy top, it will be more like stove top mac and cheese.
My recipe tips
- For a smooth, lump free sauce: add the milk a little at a time, whisking well in between each addition and use a balloon whisk to make the sauce, this really helps get rid of any lumps.
- Cooking the pasta slightly less than the instructions on the packet helps you get beautifully cooked pasta rather than overcooked mushy pasta.
- When stirring the tuna into the sauce, don’t beat it in. Leave chunks of tuna rather than flakes.
- Let the pasta bake cool for a few minutes before serving. It will be very hot when it first comes out of the oven!
This cheesey tuna pasta bake is more than a meal in itself, but if you want to add some greens a simple crisp salad like this pear and walnut salad, rocket salad or German cucumber salad is always a tasty addition, as are some steamed green beans or broccoli. If you want to add some extra carbs on the side, a slice of air fryer garlic bread is always popular! (This is something I do if we have unexpected guests – it helps the pasta bake go further!)
The pasta bake is most delicious fresh from the oven, however you can reheat leftover pasta bake.
There are a couple of ways I reheat tuna pasta bake:
- Stove top: spoon the tuna pasta into a saucepan and add a splash of milk or stock. Reheat gently, stirring every so often to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Don’t stir it too much otherwise the pasta can break up and it can become stodgy. If you have a microwave reheat it in the microwave until piping hot.
- Oven – place leftover pasta bake bake in to a baking dish, stirring though a little more liquid – approx 75ml – 120ml (⅓ – ½ c) Sprinkle extra grated cheese on top and place in a medium oven for 10-15 minutes until piping hot.
- Spicy tuna pasta bake – For a mild spice I like to add 1 teaspoons of mild curry powder to the sauce. Or if you have younger family members, you can drizzle a little Sriracha or add a spoonful of quick pickled chillies on top of those that want a little spice, leaving the rest without spice.
- Crunchy topping – half way through baking, sprinkle over some pangrattato (Italian breadcrumbs) or panko breadcrumbs.
- Other vegetables – swap the sweetcorn for frozen peas or frozen mixed vegetables, or fry some sliced mushrooms, roughly chopped of frozen capsicum / bell pepper, or lightly fry a coarsely grated carrot. Or use some broccoli – blanch some broccoli florets for 3 minutes before stirring through the sauce.
- Less pasta – I often mix leftover pasta with some cooked rice, or even leftover potato. Or you can add and more vegetables.
Ideas for leftover pasta bake
- If you have a small amount of tuna pasta leftover, use it to top toast: grill a couple of slices of toast on one side then flip over and lightly grill the other side, to crisp it but not to get any colour on it. Meanwhile, heat the pasta bake in a small saucepan over a low heat, adding a little more milk if needed. Spoon this over the toasted bread, top with a little grated cheese and place under the grill until golden and bubbling.
- Add a spoonful or two to an omelette (it won’t be a neat omelette but it tastes soo good!) or Spanish tortilla.
Why not try…
You may also like these other family friendly pasta dinner:
Tuna Pasta Bake
- 1 28 cm x 21cm (11 x 8 inch) oven proof dish
- 250g (4 c) dried pasta
- 75g (¼ c + 1 tablespoon) butter or margarine
- 75g (½ c) plain flour
- 400ml milk
- 400ml stock or milk
- splash Worcestershire sauce, optional
- 100g (3 ½ oz) grated cheddar or tasty cheese
- 185g tinned tuna in water or oil
- 420g (14 oz) tinned sweetcorn
- black pepper
- 25g (¾ oz) grated cheddar or tasty cheese, for the top, optional
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan / 200˚C / 356˚F convection / 392˚F.
- Cook the pasta in boiling water according to packet instructions less 1 minute. Drain.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce:
- In a medium saucepan melt the butter or margarine over a medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir until well combined.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, then slowly add a little of the stock / milk, whisking with a ballon whisk in between each addition.
- Once all the liquid has been added, cook for 4-5 minutes, whisking, until the sauce starts to thicken.
- Take off the heat and add the Worcestershire sauce, if using, 100g (3 ½ oz) grated cheese, drained tuna and sweetcorn and season with black pepper.
- Add the drained cooked pasta and stir to combine.
- Tip the mixture into 28 cm x 21cm (11 x 8 inch) oven proof dish. Sprinkle over the extra 25g (¾ oz) grated cheese, if using.
- Place in the preheated oven and cook for 30-35 minutes until golden and bubbling.
- Leave for a couple of minutes before serving – it’s hot!
HAVE YOU MADE THIS RECIPE?
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