That Spicy Chick

Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake

Cheesy, creamy, full of tuna chunks, pasta, pops of sweetcorn and baby spinach! This tasty Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake is easy to make with mostly everyday and pantry ingredients, incredibly flavorful, and guaranteed to be a winner at your table!

Friends, whoever thought that a humble can of tuna is good for only tuna salad sandwiches is dearly mistaken.

This Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake is made with canned tuna chunks, pasta (any short-cut type you like), canned sweetcorn, baby spinach, and plenty of 3 types of cheese (mozzarella, Gruyère, and savory-nutty Parmigiano Reggiano) in a beautifully seasoned and rich homemade creamy white wine sauce!

In Australia, this dish is known as tuna mornay. Mornay is the name given to a white sauce (bechamel – made with from a butter and flour roux with whole milk) and cheese. But this dish is essentially a tuna pasta bake casserole.

While I’ve spiced things up with the addition of fresh Thai Bird’s Eye chilies, ground cayenne, and crushed red pepper flakes, you can leave the spicy ingredients out to make this dish family friendly and suitable to those averse to spice.

This dish is perfect for feeding a hungry crowd. However, the leftovers can be frozen and will still taste just as wonderful and be satisfying when reheated at a later date.

Top view of cream sauce pasta with corn and spinach on a plate with a spoon.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Easy to make and feeds a crowd. You don’t need a lot of skill of effort to make it. The hardest part is grating the cheese yourself! The rest of the dish comes together in a breeze.
  • Made with mostly pantry and everyday ingredients. You likely have almost everything on hand already to make it for dinner tonight!
  • Customizable. You can swap for your favorite veggies if corn and baby spinach aren’t your favorite. You can also a different combo of melty cheeses if you like!
  • Adjustable spice level. Make it as mild or as spicy as you like.
  • Comfort food at its best! This tuna pasta bake is hearty, rich and satisfying and a guaranteed winner at your dinner table.

Ingredient Notes

Labeled ingredients to make Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake on a wooden board.
  • Aromatics: Yellow onion, garlic and fresh Thai Bird’s eye red chilies to make this tuna pasta casserole spicy! Feel free to use any other small hot red chilies you can get in your area. Use less or omit the chilies completely for a milder dish.
  • Corn and Baby Spinach: For veggies, I went with canned corn and baby spinach. You can use fresh or frozen corn and spinach if you prefer. You could also add other quick cooking veggies like peas, mushrooms, green beans, etc. If using any other veggies that take extra time to cook (such as carrots), sauté them separately first so that they will soften enough after the casserole’s stint in the oven.
  • Pasta: I used cavatappi, but penne, rigatoni, conchiglie or any other short-cut pasta shape will work.
  • Canned Tuna: Preferably chunks or solid tuna in oil as it’s more flavorful and has a better texture. Avoid tuna flakes and grated tuna because they will disintegrate into mush in the sauce. Tuna in spring water or brine will work too if you prefer it. Using white tuna (albacore), light tuna (mixture of smaller tuna species like skipjack, yellowfin, tongol), or any other tuna variety is up to you. Feel free to use tuna fillets in oil that comes in jars. Just chop the fillets into chunky smaller pieces.
  • Seasonings and spices: Kosher salt, freshly cracked Black Pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Herbs De Provence (or use Italian Seasoning), dried oregano flakes, and ground cayenne and crushed red pepper flakes for heat. Feel free to use less of the ground cayenne and crushed red pepper flakes or omit to make this milder. This is almost the exact same winning combination of seasonings in my popular cream sauce seafood pasta. It works beautifully in this creamy tuna pasta bake too. That said, feel free to switch up the seasonings if you like.
  • Cheeses: For the cream sauce AND the delicious cheesy topping. I’ve used a winning combination of Gruyère and Parmigiano Reggiano for savory-nutty flavors and mozzarella for its cheesy richness. Feel free to use any other type of melty cheeses you love such as mild or sharp cheddar, gouda, etc. The only thing I insist on is using freshly grated cheese. While it takes a few extra minutes to grate the cheese from blocks yourself, they will melt better and evenly into rich cream sauce. Also, freshly grated cheese tastes SO MUCH better than the bagged pre-shredded cheese at the supermarkets!
  • Dry White Wine: I used a sauvignon blanc, but any type of crisp dry white wine (pinot grigio or unoaked chardonnay) will work. Substitute with low sodium chicken broth make this dish alcohol-free.
  • Whole Milk: The base of our creamy bechamel sauce. I highly recommend using whole milk (full-fat) for the best texture. But you can use any type of milk you prefer.
  • Lemon Juice: As always, use freshly squeezed for the best flavor. We’ll need a generous splash to complement the tuna and balance out the richness of the creamy white sauce.
Labeled freshly grated cheeses in measuring cups.

Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.

How to Make Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake

1. Sauté onion and garlic. In unsalted butter and extra virgin olive oil until softened and fragrant.

2. Sauté fresh red chilies (if using) and parsley. Just for a few seconds to combine.

3. Add the flour. Whisk in the all-purpose flour and cook for a minute to get rid of the floury taste.

4. Pour in the wine: Continue whisking until the mixture thickens.

Process steps to make spicy cream sauce in a pan on a stovetop.

5. Build the cream sauce. Lower the heat whisk in the milk until smooth. Add all of the seasonings and spices and continue whisking to combine until the sauce has thickened.

6. Stir in the cheeses. One handful at a time, making sure each addition has fully melted and integrated before adding the next handful. Remove the pan from the heat.

7. Add the veggies. Stir in the corn and baby spinach until the spinach has slightly wilted.

8. Add the lemon juice, pasta and tuna. Gently stir until combined well and taking care to not break the tuna chunks too much.

Final process steps to make creamy cheese sauce and added veggies, tuna and pasta.

9. Bake and broil. Transfer to a 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved mozzarella, Gruyère, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses evenly on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F/180°C for 20-22 minutes until the cheese has melted. Then broil for 2 minutes until the cheesy topping is golden brown and bubbling at the sides.

Creamy pasta with corn and spinach piled into a baking dish and topped with grated cheese.

Serve! Garnish with chopped parsley for a herby sparkle. Then serve immediately and enjoy!

Front view of tuna pasta bake with a melted cheese topping in a casserole dish.

Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.

Closeup of creamy pasta with tuna, corn and spinach on a plate with a spoon.

Cook’s Tips

  • Don’t squish the tuna when draining it into a fine mesh strainer. Drain it well so that the cream sauce doesn’t become greasy, but don’t press too hard on it so that the texture and flavor is altered.
  • Don’t break the tuna chunks too much when stirring it into the cream sauce. You don’t want it to turn into mush and want some chunky bits in each bite.
  • Make it spicy or mild. If spicy food is not your thing, you can leave out the fresh red chilies, ground cayenne, and crushed red pepper flakes to make this dish mild and kids friendly.
  • Use canned salmon. Not a fan of tuna? Substitute with canned salmon for a different but still incredibly delicious cheesy and creamy salmon pasta bake!
Closeup front view of creamy pasta with tuna, corn and spinach on a plate.

FAQs

Can tuna pasta bake be frozen?

After cooking, allow to cool completely. Divide the creamy tuna pasta bake into individual portions and freeze in separate freezer-friendly airtight sealed containers for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F/190°C. Place the pasta bake portion in an oven-safe dish and cover with a sheet of aluminum foil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until hot throughout.

Can I make this ahead?

Follow all the steps as per recipe up till assembling the casserole and sprinkling with the topping cheeses. Cover tightly with a sheet of foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight if frozen and bake in a preheated oven as per the recipe. You may need to bake for an extra 5 minutes to make sure that the center is hot before you switch on the broiler to crisp up the cheesy topping.

Which tuna is best for pasta?

Just about any variety of tuna will work well with pasta. Use albacore for a rich flavor and meaty texture. Yellowfin, skipjack and other tuna varieties also taste great. The one thing I recommend is using solid tuna or tuna chunks instead of flakes so that it doesn’t completely disintegrate in the sauce.

Can I make this creamy tuna pasta bake with tomato?

Yes! Add 2-3 tablespoons of double concentrated paste when you add the flour to the pan. You’ll end up with a delicious creamy and cheesy sauce with rich tomato overtones.

Top view of pasta with melted cheese topping on a plate and in dish.

Catering to Specific Diets

  • Make it gluten-free. Use a gluten free all-purpose flour like Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 gluten-free flour and a gluten-free pasta.
  • To make it vegetarian. Use a veggie tuna substitute such as OmniTuna.
  • To make it vegan. Use dairy-free butter, milk, cheeses and a veggie tuna substitute.
Closeup of creamy pasta with spoon on a plate and top view of cheesy casserole. Text overlay "Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake (Cheesy Tuna Mornay)" and "thatspicychick.com".

More Pasta Bakes


MADE THIS RECIPE? If you make this recipe, leave a comment and review it below with a STAR rating! I always appreciate your feedback. Take a photo and be sure to tag it with @thatspicychick on Instagram and hashtag it #thatspicychick so I can see.

STAY CONNECTED! You can also follow me on PinterestFacebook or InstagramSign up for my email list to get my latest recipe in your inbox weekly!

Print
Top view of pasta bake with cheesy topping in casserole dish.

Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake

Cheesy, creamy, full of tuna chunks, pasta, pops of sweetcorn and baby spinach, this tasty Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake is guaranteed to be a winner at your table!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 35
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: Western
Scale

Ingredients

  • ½ medium Yellow Onion – finely minced
  • 6 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 214 fresh Red Chilies (optional – Thai Bird’s Eye or any small hot red chilies – see notes*), to taste – finely chopped
  • 1 (15 ounce / 425 grams) canned Corn – drained
  • 3 cups (3 ounces / 86 grams) Baby Spinach – washed
  • 4 TBLS fresh Italian Parsley – finely chopped
  • 12 ounces / 340 grams uncooked short-cut Pasta (I used cavatappi – see notes*)
  • 15 ounces / 425 grams canned Tuna (preferably in oil) – drained
  • 3 TSP Kosher Salt, to taste
  • 1.5 TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1 TSP Garlic Powder
  • 1 TSP Onion Powder
  • 1 TBLS Herbs de Provence (or Italian Seasoning)
  • 1 TSP Dried Oregano Flakes
  • ¼2 TSP ground Cayenne, to taste
  • ¼2 TSP Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
  • 2 cups / 200 grams freshly grated Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 cup / 92 grams freshly grated Gruyère Cheese
  • ½ cup / 50 grams freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (or Parmesan)
  • 2 TBLS Unsalted Buter
  • 2 TBLS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 5 TBLS / 45 grams Unbleached White All-Purpose Flour
  • 178ml / ¾ cup Dry White Wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 830ml / 3.5 cups Whole Milk
  • 2.5 TBLS freshly squeezed Lemon Juice, or more to taste
  • To Garnish/Serve (optional): 1 TBLS chopped fresh Italian Parsley

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Prepare the fresh and canned ingredients: Chop the yellow onion, garlic, fresh red chilies, and Italian parsley as indicated in the ‘ingredients’ section. Wash the baby spinach. Drain the canned corn and tuna into separate fine mesh strainers.
  2. Combine the spices and seasonings: In a small bowl, combine the kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Herbs de Provence, dried oregano flakes, ground cayenne, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cover and set aside.
  3. Grate the cheeses: Grate the mozzarella, Gruyère, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses using a box grater. Set aside half of each type of cheese (1 cup mozzarella, ½ cup Gruyere, and ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese) for the cheesy topping. Combine the remaining cheeses for the creamy pasta sauce in a large measuring cup or bowl.

For the Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake:

  1. Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta in a large pot (or use the same pan you’ll use to make the sauce) of boiling salted water 2 minutes shy of the time stated on the package for al-dente pasta. Drain and run cold water over the pasta to halt the cooking process.
  2. Preheat oven: Preheat over to 350°F/180°C.
  3. Sauté onion and aromatics: Heat the unsalted butter and extra virgin olive oil in a large deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is frothing, add the yellow onion and garlic. Sauté for a minute until slightly softened. Add the fresh red chilies (if using) and parsley and sauté for another 30-40 seconds until fragrant.
  4. Add the flour and wine: Whisk in the all-purpose flour and cook for 1-2 minutes until combined well. Gradually pour in the dry white wine and continue whisking to combine. The wine will reduce and the mixture will thicken.
  5. Build the cream sauce: Lower the heat to medium and add 1 cup of milk. Whisk until smooth and thickened. Then gradually pour in the remaining milk while continuing to whisk. Stir in all of the spices and seasonings and continue whisking until combined well and the sauce has thickened – about 3-4 minutes.
  6. Stir in the cheeses: Stir in the mozzarella (1 cup), Gruyere (1/2 cup), and Parmigiano Reggiano (1/4 cup), one handful at a time and making sure each addition has fully melted and integrated before adding the next handful. Remove the pan from the heat.
  7. Add the veggies: Add the corn and baby spinach. Stir until the baby spinach has slightly wilted.
  8. Add the lemon juice, pasta and tuna: Gently stir in the lemon juice, pasta, and tuna until combined well, taking care to not break the tuna chunks too much so that it turns into mush.
  9. Bake and broil: Transfer to a 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved mozzarella, Gruyère, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses evenly on top. Bake for 20-22 minutes until the cheese has melted. Then broil for 2 minutes until the cheesy topping is golden brown and bubbling at the sides. Transfer the dish to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  10. To Serve: Garnish with chopped parsley if desired and serve immediately.

Notes

  1. Canned Tuna. Tuna chunks or solid tuna in oil is preferred as it’s more flavorful and has a better texture. Avoid tuna flakes and grated tuna because they will disintegrate into mush in the sauce. Tuna in spring water or brine will work too. Using white tuna (albacore), light tuna (mixture of smaller tuna species like skipjack, yellowfin, tongol), or any other tuna variety is up to you. Tuna fillets in oil that comes in jars can also be used. Just chop the fillets into chunky smaller pieces. Substitute with canned salmon for a different but still delicious flavor.
  2. Pasta shape. I used cavatappi, but penne, rigatoni, conchiglie, or any other short-cut pasta shape will work.
  3. Corn and Baby Spinach. You can use fresh or frozen corn and spinach if you prefer. You could also add other quick cooking veggies like peas, mushrooms, green beans, etc. If using any other veggies that take extra time to cook (such as carrots), sauté them separately first so that they will soften enough after baking.
  4. Cheeses. Feel free to use any other type of melty cheeses you love such as mild or sharp cheddar, gouda, etc. Use freshly grated cheeses from blocks of cheese instead of the pre-bagged shredded variety. They’ll melt better and evenly into the cream sauce.
  5. Make it spicy or mild. To make this dish mild, omit or use less (to taste) of the fresh red chilies, ground cayenne, and crushed red pepper flakes. They are optional and use to taste only if you’d like to make this dish spicy.
  6. To freeze after cooking. After cooking, allow to cool completely. Divide the creamy tuna pasta bake into individual portions and freeze in separate freezer-friendly airtight sealed containers for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F/190°C. Place the pasta bake portion in an oven-safe dish and cover with a sheet of aluminum foil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until hot throughout.
  7. To make ahead. Follow all the steps as per recipe up till assembling the casserole and sprinkling with the topping cheeses. Cover tightly with a sheet of foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight if frozen and bake in a preheated oven as per the recipe. You may need to bake for an extra 5 minutes to make sure that the center is hot before you switch on the broiler to crisp up the cheesy topping.
  8. See ‘Variations’ section above to make this for a gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diet.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 827
  • Sugar: 17.5g
  • Sodium: 1562.2mg
  • Fat: 15.5
  • Saturated Fat: 15g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 15.5
  • Trans Fat: 0.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 80.9g
  • Fiber: 5.7g
  • Protein: 47.3g
  • Cholesterol: 79.8mg

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.