Sunday, May 19, 2013

tuna pasta bake

I cannot live without my oven. Ok, so I am Chinese, and if you take away my wok, I will come after you with my spatula, but there are days when the LAM simply cannot face rice and when I have 15 minutes to whip up something tasty. This is the recipe that I turn to.

I hated canned tuna. I hated it with a passion. It is really weird because I love fish of all sorts but when it came to canned tuna, I simply could not stand it. Strangely enough though when I made this pasta dish for the first time, I had a taste, and I found that I actually liked the darn thing.

When I claim that I can cook something in a short amount of time, in this case 15 minutes, I am referring to the amount of time it takes for me to prep and cook the dish - I discount the time that the dish has to be simmered, or baked because while it is doing that, I do not have to hang around to make sure that everything is okay. I mean, I do go back into the kitchen to give things a quick stir, or to check on how the cooking is progressing, but since that takes up such a negligible amount of time, it does not really count. 

As with all baked pasta dishes I make, I always cook the pasta first because the rest of the cooking process takes about as long as it does for the pasta to cook. I used pasta shells for this dish, but feel free to substitute with penne, or any other short pasta.

Onions are soft and translucent

Once I had dumped the pasta into boiling water and gave it a stir, I cooked the onions in olive oil until they were soft (about 2 minutes), before adding the tuna and cooking for another 3 minutes or so.

Break up the larger pieces of tuna

Then I dumped in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, Italian herbs, oregano, garlic granules, basil, salt and coarsely grounded black pepper and cooked until the sauce has thickened. This took about 3-4 minutes.

By now, the pasta would have been cooked. Reserve a cup of pasta water (very important) before you drain the pasta. Mix the pasta with the rest of the ingredients. If you find that the pasta is too dry or thick, mix in a little of the reserved pasta water until you achieve the consistency that you like.

I then transferred the pasta to a baking tray and sprinkled Parmesan and Cheddar cheese on top. I always buy my cheeses when they are on sale and freeze them until I need them. Since I use the cheese mainly for baking, there is no need to thaw them beforehand. I just sprinkle them on top of the pasta and bake until the top turns beautifully golden-brown.

I usually serve baked pasta with garlic bread, but it is purely optional.

Enjoy. :)

*I dedicate this post to my friend, Diana Ho, who has taken this recipe and made it her own. :)


Easy Tuna Baked Pasta (Serves 4)


1 large onion
some olive oil
2 canned tuna (drain - I prefer those that have been soaked in olive oil)
2 cans chopped tomatoes, undrained
4 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs Italian herbs
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tbs basil
1 tbs garlic granules
1 packet pasta shells (take 2 mins off recommended cooking time)
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar
1 cup grated mozzarella (I used Parmesan)
sea salt and coarsely grounded black pepper to taste


1. Cook pasta shells. Drain and set aside. Reserve a mug of the pasta water.
2. Heat oil, saute onion until soft. 
3. Add tuna and saute for another 3 mins.
4. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, Italian herbs, oregano, garlic granules, basil, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
5. When sauce has thickened, add drained pasta and stir through. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time until the desired consistency has been achieved.
6. Transfer to tray or ovenproof baking dish.
7. Sprinkle cheese. 
8. Bake at 180C for 20-25 min, or until the top has turned golden brown.

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