This creamy tuna pasta bake is packed with vegetables and a white bean sauce to take it over the top as a healthier casserole. It is layered with vegetables, flaky tuna and the essential cheesy finish. This tuna bake with pasta is family-friendly and ideal for kids with irresistible flavours. I also share options to make this dish gluten, lactose, and even dairy-free!
Published: April 2020 | Updated: April 2023 | please note, this post was fully reviewed and updated in April 2023 to improve the recipe, taking into account reader feedback, to help you achieve the most satisfying, thick and creamy sauce result. I have left the original images and added new images, too.
What’s more satisfying than pasta, sauce, and cheese baked into a comforting casserole dish to serve for dinner? Whether you’re looking for a cozy bowl of pasta on a cool night or an easy dinner, this classic tuna pasta bake hits all the marks!
Why I love this creamy tuna bake with pasta
Anything baked is a winner for our family dinners as they allow us a little more freedom to do family activities and take care of our needs. This recipe has a few quick prep steps to make, and then it cooks into a cheesy, creamy pasta bake.
- A delicious healthy dinner recipe. This tuna bake has everything you want in a family-friendly healthy dinner. I love loading my meals with a lot of veggies like this recipe and a little extra nutrition with a white bean sauce.
- The sauce has a secret ingredient. The base of this sauce uses beans instead of a roux for a heartier, healthier, creamier recipe! Blend them with milk and seasoning and toss the remaining pasta bake ingredients for something different and nourishing.
- Completely adaptable. Scour the pantry and fridge, and I’m sure you’ll find the majority of items you need or can substitute to make this easy baked tuna pasta recipe! I share many alternatives to ingredients to fit special diets and just the use of everyday items you have on hand.
Ingredients to make a hearty tuna pasta bake
Grab some of your favourite vegetables or whatever you have on hand and whip up this recipe for a tuna pasta bake that uses blended beans as the base of the sauce. What a treat! It’s smooth and creamy with milk and is a pretty hearty casserole.
- Pasta: Cook the pasta according to the packaging, but aim for a little more on the al dente side. This will help it keep a nice bite while heating in the oven.
- Tuna: I like to use canned tuna in olive oil. You could use any canned tuna you like, or even chicken!
- Oil: This is only used to coat the baking dish, so use whatever you have. I usually use extra virgin olive oil.
- Vegetables: frozen peas, corn, and extra vegetables like green beans, broccoli or carrots.
- Baby spinach and spring onions for greens and flavour!
Sauce and topping:
- Cannellini beans: Cannellini beans are also sometimes called white kidney beans or simply white beans that are similar to kidney beans in shape. I like using them in sauces and dips because they have thin skins and a soft fluffy texture that blends nicely and smoothly.
- Milk: Any milk will do. If using non-dairy milk, just make sure that it is unsweetened!
- Cheese: Cheddar is my go-to for casseroles because it’s extra melty, so any other melting cheese would work! You could also swap for vegan cheese if needed.
- Seasoning: garlic powder, onion powder, dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
- Cornflour: This is something I’ve added to the recipe when I updated it. I noticed some comments that the sauce was not thickening up enough, and I’ve found adding cornflour ensures a better sauce inside.
See the recipe card for quantities.
How to make a tuna pasta bake with vegetables
Because we’re using a bunch of packaged or frozen ingredients, this recipe comes together effortlessly. The sauce is super easy and doesn’t require using a pan to make a roux, just a quick whirl in a food processor!
Step one: Preheat the oven and prepare a baking dish. Cook the pasta according to the package.
Step two: Drain and rinse the beans and transfer to a food processor with the milk and spices and blend until smooth.
Step three: Toss the pasta, vegetables, and tuna into the baking dish, and then pour the sauce in with some cheese. Stir it all until combined, and top with the remaining cheese.
Step four: Bake until the cheese is melty and golden brown.
Recipe tips and substitutions
This is a very flexible dish, so I want to offer as many options as possible. You can use whatever pasta shape you like, most kinds of milk work, most veggies work, and hey, if you don’t like tuna, you could use some tinned salmon instead. Or even some leftover shredded cooked chicken.
Choose any small pasta. Smaller pasta shapes like spiral, penne, elbow, or bowtie work nicely in pasta bakes. You can use regular pasta, gluten free (e.g. rice pasta), pulse pasta, etc.
Use a food processor or high-speed blender. The beans must blend into a smooth consistency to get the best texture in your sauce. A food processor works best, but a high-speed blender would also work.
Switch up the vegetables. I love this tuna pasta casserole because it is adaptable and easy to adjust to what you have available. Frozen vegetables are easy to use, but you could also use canned. Fresh vegetables can also be used. To ensure they cook evenly in this dish, I suggest lightly steaming them first OR making sure they are chopped up into small pieces so they’ll definitely cook through.
Make it extra cheesy. If you want it to be cheesy, add more grated cheese than I suggested in the recipe. You could probably add up to one extra cup more, depending on how much of a cheese addict you are! You can also use a blend of mozzarella and cheddar for a really gooey cheesy finish.
Use another bean for the sauce. Cannellini beans are smooth and creamy, so I love using them to make sauces. Other bean options are garbanzo beans (chickpeas) or white beans like great northern, butter beans or navy beans.
Substitutions and Diet Restriction Options
The best part about this healthier baked tuna pasta is that it’s versatile and can easily be made into an allergy-friendly recipe. You may need to switch up a few things if you have diet restrictions. This tuna pasta bake is perfect for adjusting to a gluten, lactose, or even dairy-free recipe!
- Gluten free: simply use gluten free pasta. In the pasta bake pictured, I used a combination of gluten free rice pasta and pulse pasta. Pulse pasta is made from beans like chickpeas, lentils, etc., which is also gluten free.
- Lactose free: for the milk, use lactose free cow’s milk and lactose free cheese. This should be available at your supermarket!
- Dairy free: use unsweetened soy or unsweetened almond milk plus a non-dairy grated cheese substitute, i.e., a vegan cheese. I recommend using a proper vegan cheese substitute that will melt like regular cheese. Nutritional yeast alone just isn’t the same as a good vegan cheese.
How to store leftovers
Store leftovers of this tuna pasta bake in an air-tight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. To reheat, warm in the oven until heated through or microwave it.
This is a fantastic family-friendly recipe that’s budget-friendly and a great way to use up your pantry items and any leftover vegetables and bake them into one delicious meal.
If you make this Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake, take a snap and tag me on Instagram!
More Dinner Recipes
Healthier Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake
- 4 cups pasta measured uncooked. I usually use gluten free chickpea pasta, or brown rice pasta, in a penne or spiral shape.
- 350-400 grams tinned tuna in olive oil
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for greasing the dish
- 3/4 cup peas frozen
- 3/4 cup corn kernels canned or frozen
- 2 cups frozen vegetables such as sliced green beans, broccoli florets, sliced carrots
- 1 large handful baby spinach
- 2 spring onions
Pasta bake sauce and topping:
- 1 can cannellini beans (400g)
- 400 mL milk of choice this is just a tiny bit over 1.5 cups. I usually use unsweetened almond milk, or lactose free cows milk.
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard (*some mustards are stronger than others, adjust to taste!)
- 1 and 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper to season
- Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a large deep baking dish with a little extra virgin olive oil.
- Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, and set aside. Finely chop the spring onions and set aside as well.
- Drain and rinse the cannellini beans. Place in a blender or food processor with the milk, garlic powder, onion powder, cornflour, mustard and a very generous pinch of salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
- Place cooked pasta, all of the vegetables, tuna and spring onion in the baking dish. Make sure the tuna is flaked through rather than being in really large chunks. Pour over the milk mixture and add in half of the cheese. Stir everything together and then arrange evenly in the baking dish.
- Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted and the top of the pasta bake is turning crispy and golden.
Great recipe! I did the same as another person above and made a white sauce from scratch on the stove, before adding the whizzed up beans and cheese. Only amendment I’d make next time is to use fresh onion and garlic as I’m not that keen on the dried version.
Hi Sian, thanks for taking the time to leave feedback! I also prefer fresh onion in most recipes 🙂 But went with dried for this one as I was aiming to make it as “convenient” as possible!
Delicious! I used all fresh veggies and added some basil and parley! My two toddlers and husband licked their plates clean!
I’m so happy to hear this positive feedback Annalise, thank you so much for taking the time to write it!
Thank you for this recipe. I think it is a new family favorite 🙂 I kept quantities as per the recipe but I heated the sauce mixture through on the stove first, allowing it to thicken, before pouring over the rest of the ingredients. The resulting sauce consistency was near perfect!
I do not think it is something I will make again. I also found the sauce far to runny. I ended up siving the food to get rid of the extra mixture. It does not look very good and the taste is not great neither.
Hi Jo, thank you for your feedback. This is something that a few people have said, so I think I need to perhaps retest the recipe and make sure the amount of liquid is appropriate to the pasta.
This recipe turned out quite runny. Am I able to reduce the milk or possibly add more cannelloni beans. The cannelloni beans didnt thicken the milk mixture at all.
Hi Jaime, I’m sorry to hear that! I would definitely try just reducing the milk. You can also add 1 tbsp of cornflour or tapioca flour to the milk and beans when you blend it together which will thicken it slightly while it cooks, but don’t go overboard with adding the flour as it will make it too gluggy/gummy. 🙂
Mine has just been put in the oven
Baked Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Carrot, Onion & Capscum
Florets of Cauliflower & Broccoli
Corn, Peans & Beans
I put in extra spices and cheese
Let’s hope it turns out ok
Had the same problem with the sauce being runny despite my adding cornflour and having half a cup less milk. Next time I’ll only use a cup, but otherwise it was pretty tasty.
This was a huge success as I made it dairy-free for the grandchildren but we all liked it. I added pumpkin, onions, red and yellow capsicum and possibly more cheese. Definitely one to make again, thank you.
How much is a serving? Your recipe reads 444 calories but for how much of a serving?
Hi Beverly, the nutrition facts for this recipe are for one sixth of the whole dish – so if you divide the whole bake into 6 even sized pieces.