Tuna And Pesto Pasta Bake

Tuna and pesto pasta bake

Introduction
Out of all the meals in the Western world, we reckon the humble pasta bake must have saved more weeknight mealtimes than any other. For many families this cheesy, bubbling dish of goodness is on constant rotation and there's no wonder why. Not only is it endlessly customisable, but it enables mums and dads to sneak some vegetables into their kids' diets without them even noticing.

Admittedly there may not be that many people over about the age of seven who would describe pasta bake as their all-time favourite dish, but then again there's also not many people who would score a good pasta bake less than a seven out of ten.

We've tried to increase the chances of upping that score to an eight or a nine with the inclusion of, you guessed it, a little pesto.

Serving the pasta bake

We're not the only ones who think tuna is at its very best eaten raw, but sashimi-grade fish would be totally wasted on this recipe. We're not snobs when it comes to tinned food, and for this dish we actively encourage you to use the tinned stuff.

As for the pasta, well, we've seen pasta bakes made with all kinds of shapes. The tube shapes like rigatoni and penne are particularly popular, as are the shell shapes like conchiglie. Here though, we've opted for the macaroni-style spirali, a shape we'd never normally be seen dead pairing with pesto.

Recommended equipment
Digital kitchen scales
5l roasting dish

Pro tip
This recipe works well with any tinned fish... salmon, mackerel, sardines and more. It thereby provides a great way to introduce youngsters' palates to a wider range of fish.

Pasta bake close-up

Ingredients for 6-8 servings

Spirali 400g
Onion x2
Garlic x3 cloves
Tuna x3 tins
Sweetcorn 250g
Frozen peas 200g
Mature cheddar 200g
Mozzarella 125g
Heavy cream 150g
Pesto 190g
Stock 300g (or more if needed)
Olive oil as needed
Panko breadcrumbs 100g (optional)

Method
The only "difficult" thing about making a good pesto pasta bake is deciding when to stop simmering the pasta because it will continue to cook when you put it in the oven. As a general rule, we simmer the pasta in salted water according to pack instructions, but we drain it about 2 minutes before we think it's going to be perfectly al dente. It's a case of trial and error rather than hard and fast rules.

While the pasta is simmering, dice the onions and fry them in a little olive oil until softened but not browned. Mince the garlic and add to the pan. Continue to cook for another two minutes before removing from the heat and transferring to a large bowl.

Grate the cheddar and add 100g of it to the bowl, followed by roughly teared mozzarella and drained sweetcorn and tuna. Give it a good stir and add the cream, pesto and stock. Season to taste.

When your pasta is done, drain, allow to cool for a minute or two and add to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.

Give everything a really good stir and transfer to a large roasting tray. 

Top with the remaining 100g of cheddar (and breadcrumbs if using) and cook in a 180°C oven until the top is golden brown and bubbling and the pasta is warmed through, about 15 minutes.

The pesto and tuna pasta bake during cooking

Serving suggestions
Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus
Tangy cucumber salad
Roasted Brussel sprouts
Sautéed mushroom and spinach
Griddled corn on the cob

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