Tuna Broccoli Pasta Bake is the perfect easy weeknight meal your family will love! That creamy comfort food casserole with NO condensed soup and NO mayo! It’s a childhood favorite, all grown up with better ingredients! Loaded with veggies like broccoli and peas, a buttery crunchy topping and ready in just 30 minutes!
Why We Love It!
- It’s the perfect weeknight meal! – This creamy tuna pasta bake is that perfect mix of pantry staples, a good amount of veggies so you can call it healthy, but still with that cheesy comfort food goodness! It cooks all in one pot and is quick to throw together on a busy weeknight!
- There’s NO condensed soup! – I love baked pastas and comforting casseroles! They feel like mom’s cooking in the 80’s to me! But condensed soup, no thanks! And you don’t need it, this creamy sauce is made with ricotta and Parmesan cheese, a bit of real cream, and some of the starchy cooking liquid from the pasta. Real ingredients, not from a can!
- It’s fast and easy! – Sometimes it feels like adding the protein to dinner is the hardest part. I forgot to thaw chicken, or I just didn’t get to the store for something fresh. Meatless meal nights are great, but a can of tuna can really come to the rescue!
- If you love this recipe, be sure to check out my Bacon Cauliflower Mac & Cheese and my Creamy Farfalle Pasta with Prosciutto and Peas!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Large Pasta Shells – I love using shells in a pasta bake because all those little nooks and crannies get filled with sauce, tuna and veggies. You could substitute any short pasta, like medium shells, bowties, penne or macaroni.
- Broccoli – My favorite kid friendly vegetable! The broccoli cooks right along with the pasta so there’s no need to cook it separately. Frozen broccoli is fine too, the instructions are the same.
- Frozen Peas – A handful of peas just adds a little extra nutrition!
- Ricotta and Parmesan Cheese – Like in lasagna, the cheese is the main component of the sauce as the pasta bakes.
- Cream – Real cream adds that touch of richness to the sauce and eliminates the need for “cream of” canned soup!
- Tuna – A pantry staple! A simple can of tuna is such a great way to add protein to a dish. You could also substitute cooked chicken or ham (Easter ham or even chopped deli ham) in this dish.
- White Cheddar and Corn Flakes – The topping is always the best part! White cheddar cheese for that melty gooeyness and the buttered corn flakes for that slightly sweetened crunch! Regular cheddar, provolone or mozzarella are also fine. You could sub crushed ritz crackers or bread crumbs, but I love the flakes!
Step 1 – Preheat your oven and bring a large salted pot of water to a boil. You will cook the pasta and the broccoli in the same pot. Cook the pasta shells for a total of 10 minutes. In the final 3 minutes of cooking, add the chopped broccoli to boil with the pasta. So the pasta will cook 7 minutes by itself and then 3 more minutes together with the broccoli for a total of 10 minutes and finish at the same time.
Step 2 – Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid (a coffee cup works great to scoop it out). Don’t skip this step! That starchy cooking liquid is need to make the sauce and keep your casserole from drying out! Drain the pasta and broccoli and return to the pot. Add in the cooking liquid, peas, ricotta and Parmesan cheese, cream, tuna and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.
Step 3 – You can bake it in the same pot, or transfer it to a 9×12 or round casserole dish. Top it with shredded cheese, then with the buttered cornflakes.
Step 4 – Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the casserole is warmed through and the topping is crisp and golden. Enjoy!
- Make Ahead Instructions – Yes you can make this tuna broccoli casserole ahead of time! Just follow all instructions but don’t bake it. Cover well and store in the fridge for a day or two. Before baking, let it sit on the counter about an hour to come to room temperature. You may want to cover it with tinfoil in the first 15 minutes of baking to keep it from drying out. Then cook without the foil until it is heated through. The cooking time may take a bit longer so just check to make sure it’s hot!
- Don’t skip the cooking liquid! – Pulling out some of that starchy liquid that the pasta has cooked in is one of the great techniques of sauce making! Just dunk a measuring cup or coffee cup into the water just before you drain it. It thins the ricotta cheese a bit and keeps your pasta bake from drying out in the oven. If you did miss it and pour it down the drain, add some extra cream or milk to give the dish a bit more liquid.
- Stir in a splash of milk or cream when reheating leftovers. – Leftovers are great for lunch and can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop. A bit of extra liquid keeps if from being dry.
More Favorite Weeknight Dinners!
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Tuna Broccoli Pasta Bake
- 1 pound pasta large shells (reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid before draining!)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt added to the boiling water
- 3 cups broccoli (fresh or frozen) chopped small
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- ½ cup Parmesan Cheese shredded
- ½ cup cream
- 12 oz can tuna, drained (preferably solid, not chunk – break it up with a fork)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 grinds fresh black pepper
- 1 cup white cheddar shredded (or sub regular cheddar, provolone, or mozzarella)
- 2 cups corn flakes cereal mixed with 1 T melted butter
- Preheat oven to 400°. In a large pot, boil water and then add 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook pasta shells according to package instructions, about 10 minutes. In the final 3 minutes of cooking, add the chopped broccoli to boil with the pasta. So the pasta will cook 7 minutes by itself and then 3 more minutes together with the broccoli for a total of 10 minutes and finish at the same time.
- Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid (a coffee cup works great to scoop it out and add to a measuring cup). Drain the pasta and broccoli and return to the pot. Add in the cooking liquid, peas, ricotta and Parmesan cheese, cream, and tuna. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and then mix very well with a spoon or spatula to combine.
- You can bake it in the same pot, or transfer it to a 9×12 or round casserole dish. Top it with shredded cheddar cheese, then with the buttered cornflakes. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the casserole is warmed through and the flakes are browned a bit. Allow to sit a few minutes before serving.