Creamy Tuna Pasta

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Creamy Tuna Pasta combines tender and saucy noodles with sweet peas and tuna. Cook everything together in one pot for a seriously creamy and unforgettable dish the whole family will love!
 
Love Tuna? Try some of our other popular tuna recipes like this one-pan Tuna Casserole, these cheesy Tuna Melts, or this Tuna Macaroni Salad (the best creamy tuna pasta salad recipe!).
The best and easiest ONE POT creamy tuna pasta! A super easy and quick ONE DISH dinner! via chelseasmessyapron.com | #tuna #creamy #pasta #onepan #onepot #easy #quick #peas #comfort #food #recipe #recipes

Image of the creamy tuna pasta in the skillet

Creamy Tuna Pasta

As soon as the weather starts cooling down, all I crave is hearty comfort food! Soups, stews, a good pot roast, and a personal favorite: Creamy Tuna Pasta.

My mom frequently made creamy tuna over rice growing up–it was a family favorite. This recipe is adapted from hers but uses pasta instead of rice. And instead of having to wash a few different pots, we’re preparing it all in ONE pot — hooray for whoever is on dish duty!

QUICK TIP

So, how do we make Creamy Tuna Pasta without cream? Because we’re cooking it all in one pot! We make this creamy tuna pasta with milk, broth, and a little water– and then let the starches from the pasta thicken everything up nicely.

How To Make Creamy Tuna Pasta

The full recipe is down below; here are our top tips for this recipe!

  • Cook in a nonstick pot. Pasta has a tendency to stick to the bottom of a cast-iron pot.
  • Use room-temperature cheese and milk. If you think about it, set out the cheese and milk about 30 minutes to an hour before making this recipe. Warmer cheese melts nicer than cold cheese and warmer milk will form into a nice, thick sauce quicker.
  • Stir often. To ensure even cooking, give this recipe a good stir every few minutes.
  • Don’t forget to season. Typically, pasta is boiled in salted water. Since we aren’t cooking it separately, don’t forget to generously season this dish — you may need more salt than you think!

Creamy Tuna Pasta Ingredients

A few notes on some of the ingredients worth mentioning:

  • Tuna. We recommend tuna that is packed in olive oil for the best flavor. My personal favorite is Genova’s® albacore tuna. Tuna packed in olive oil is richer and has a fresher flavor.
  • Whole milk. The higher the fat content of the milk, the smoother (and richer) the dish will be.
  • Chicken stock. Stock has more flavor than broth, but either will work. We love and highly recommend Swanson® chicken stock in this recipe.
  • Small pasta shells. The pictures can appear a little deceiving, but we do use small shells for this recipe. Any larger and the timing (and liquid amounts) will be off.
  • Dijon mustard. We love the complementary flavor and tang this addition adds to this recipe, but if you don’t like Dijon, I’d recommend leaving it out. Alternatively, try adding 1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard powder instead.

Adding Cheese? Here are some tips

  • Use good quality, fresh cheese. Good cheese will melt better, won’t clump, and creates a luxuriously smooth creamy tuna pasta sauce.
  • Grate the cheese yourself: Although this recipe is supposed to be as easy as possible, we do recommend freshly grating the cheese to avoid a grainy or greasy meal. Pre-shredded cheese has a cellulose coating that doesn’t melt as well in recipes like this one.
  • Add cheese off the heat. If the cheese is added while the pot is still on the stovetop, it can easily become grainy.  With all the heat, the proteins in the cheese clump and change the texture of the sauce.

Number 1 TipTake the pan off the stovetop as soon as the pasta is cooked al dente. Al dente means there is still a good firm bite to the pasta — it shouldn’t be mushy! The pasta will continue to cook and absorb liquid off the stove as we stir in the cheese. It’s better to take the pot off the stove a little early than too late (undercooked pasta is easy to fix; mushy pasta can’t be saved).

Variation Ideas

Part of the “fun” of this canned tuna pasta (besides having hardly any dishes to wash!) is how customizable it is. Think of this recipe as a canvas for your own creation!

  • Creamy Tuna Pasta With Mushrooms: Sauté mushrooms in olive oil and a little butter before beginning the recipe. Transfer to a plate and set aside; proceed with the recipe. Mix through the sautéed mushrooms at the end.
  • How to make Creamy Tuna Pesto Pasta: Leave off the cheese at the end and instead scoop a generous amount of fresh basil pesto on individual plates. Gently mix it through, add a few squeezes of lemon, and enjoy!
  • More crunch: Add coarsely crushed buttery crackers or potato chips to individual plates to add in some texture.
  • More veggies: Stir in a cup of frozen peas and carrots (instead of just peas) or a cup of frozen corn!

Overhead image of the Creamy Tuna Pasta

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Creamy Tuna Pasta

4.89 from 18 votes
Creamy Tuna Pasta combines tender and saucy noodles with sweet peas and tuna. Cook everything together in one pot and serve up a seriously creamy and unforgettable dish the whole family will love!
Print Recipe

Creamy Tuna Pasta

4.89 from 18 votes
Creamy Tuna Pasta combines tender and saucy noodles with sweet peas and tuna. Cook everything together in one pot and serve up a seriously creamy and unforgettable dish the whole family will love!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Creamy Tuna Pasta
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 450kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $8.42

Equipment

  • Non-stick pan

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped (1-1/2 cups; 185g)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup (235g) + 2 tablespoons 2% or whole milk, separated
  • 2 cups (435g) water
  • 2-1/4 cups (510g) chicken stock (or broth)
  • 1 pkg. (16 oz.; 454g) small pasta shells (Note 1)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (Note 2)
  • 1 large lemon
  • 2 cans (5 oz.; 142g EACH) tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 1 cup (135g) frozen peas
  • Fine sea salt and pepper
  • Optional: 2 cups freshly shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, fresh parsley

Instructions

  • PREP: Remove 1 cup of frozen peas from the freezer to begin thawing. Grate the cheese, measure, and set aside 2 cups to get to room temperature. Measure milk and set aside to get to room temperature.
  • ONION AND GARLIC: Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet set to medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add in the onion. Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until golden and add in the garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • COOK PASTA: Add in 1 cup of the milk, the water, broth, and UNCOOKED pasta shells. Add some salt and pepper to taste (I add 1 tsp fine sea salt and 1/2 tsp pepper). If desired, add in 1/2 teaspoon each of garlic and onion powder (optional, but nice). Still over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a simmer (bubbling at the edges) and then lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring often until the pasta is al dente (about 5-7 minutes). The pasta will continue to cook a bit over the next few minutes, so don’t overcook it here (Note 4).
  • ADD TUNA: Reduce heat to low. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons milk, Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Add the drained tuna and mix gently until combined. Season with salt and pepper. (I add another 1/4 up to 1/2 teaspoon of each.) Stir in the frozen peas. Remove pot from heat and let stand for 2 minutes.
  • CHEESE: Off heat, add freshly shredded cheese, and gently stir through, letting the residual heat melt the cheese. Let the pasta rest, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and gets nice and creamy. Taste once more, adding additional seasoning if needed. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired and enjoy immediately.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Small pasta shells: The pictures can appear a little deceiving, but we do use small shells for this recipe. Any larger and the timing (and liquid amounts) will be off.
Note 2: Dijon mustard: We love the complementary flavor and tang this addition adds, but if you don't like Dijon, reduce or leave it out. Alternatively, try adding 1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard powder instead.
Note 3: Pot: The skillet shown in the post was used only for photos to better show the dish -- use a nonstick pot for this recipe.
Note 4: Cooking: Take the pan off the stovetop as soon as the pasta is cooked al dente. Al dente means there is still a good firm bite to the pasta — it shouldn’t be mushy! The pasta will continue to cook and absorb liquid off the stove as we stir in the cheese and as the starches from the pasta thicken everything. It’s better to take the pot off the stove a little early than too late (undercooked pasta is easy to fix; mushy pasta can’t be saved).

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 450kcal | Carbohydrates: 67.6g | Protein: 28.3g | Fat: 6.3g | Cholesterol: 27.3mg | Sodium: 830.2mg | Fiber: 3.9g | Sugar: 7.8g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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Recipe Rating




44 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this, and it was great! I added sharp cheddar, and it reminded me of my mom’s tuna noodle casserole from when I was a kid but made with much better ingredients. I definitely suggest using whole milk and small shells as the recipe states. The first time I made it I only had skim milk (which was not as creamy as I would have liked) and medium shells (which were too big to be covered by the cooking liquid). It still tasted great, but definitely go with the recipe! My only suggestion is to thaw the peas a little because adding completely frozen peas cooled it down.

  2. 5 stars
    This was great!!! Made it for a family gathering and it was devoured. I did not have enough liquid at the end so I added 1/2 a cup of my homemade Alfredo sauce, keeping in mind I doubled the batch. I used penne pasta as well and topped with cheese but still this is a definite make again recipe, that I will save.

  3. 5 stars
    Delicious. I had to leave out the mustard since my husband doesn’t like it. It was still amazing. I’ll have to add some mustard to my own serving.

    My only question: Can this be frozen? We are only two people and a pound of pasta could give me three meals : )

    1. In my experience, pasta never freezes and reheats very well so I don’t think this would be a great dish to freeze. That said, I haven’t personally tried freezing this dish; wish I could be of more help!

  4. 5 stars
    Super easy. I followed the recipe completely (except I halved) and I would say there was plenty for two people for a nice lunch. I loved the flavor the Dijon Mustard added. This will be great to make ahead this fall before returning to the classroom for a great “on-the-go” teacher lunch! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ahh I’m soo happy you enjoyed this!! Thanks so much for your comment and thanks for being a teacher (you guys don’t get enough appreciation for all you do!)

  5. 5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious! It was my 8-yr-olds night to make dinner. He had to find a healthy recipe instead of just the easiest (mayo…)

    We used canned peas which was still okay given that the sauce was delicious, although I’ll use frozen next time.

    My son now calls this ‘his dinner special’ and requests to make it weekly.

    Tonight I decided to try another tuna last and man do I regret it. The pasta being cooked with the milk in your recipe is SOOO much creamier and flavorful. I’m making sure to bookmark this so I don’t lose it again.

    1. Awe this made my day!! Thanks so much for the comment Amy! I’m thrilled your son loves this dinner! 🙂 Thank you!

  6. Wow I’m so sad because the Dijon completely ruined this. I’ve made this dish before but using a different recipe. I decided to give this one a try and the Dijon added such a weird taste that did not go with the tuna at all. I love Dijon, too. I’m now having to force myself to finish all of this…soo without that ingredient this would have been perfect! BEWARE!

    1. Oh no!! So sad to hear you didn’t enjoy the Dijon in this; sorry Katie! We love it with it, but sad it ruined it for you!

  7. 5 stars
    So happy to have discovered this!!! Couldn’t believe how yummy it was for being so quick and easy to make. I ended up using quinoa and brown rice pasta and threw in some chopped spinach rather than peas since that was what I had on hand. Turned out AMAZING and my husband couldn’t stop saying how good it was. I agree :). Will definitely add this to the rotation.

  8. 3 stars
    Quick and easy recipe.
    3 stars due to ours turning out like a soup, also could taste pasta water flavor more than tuna even made with 2 9oz cans of tuna.

    1. Sounds like it might not have been simmered long enough or on a high enough heat. Shouldn’t turn out like a soup. Did you make other changes to the recipe?

  9. 5 stars
    Delicious! I subbed spinach for the frozen peas since that’s what I had and added fresh dill from my garden at the end. Yum!

    1. That sounds delicious! Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing those delicious addition ideas!

  10. Made this for a quick Saturday night meal and the whole family (kids aged 6 and 8) loved it. I’ve never cooked pasta in milk, and it was a nice surprise to see how well it worked. Bonus points for only using one pot. Will definitely make this again.
    Thank you!

    1. I am so glad you guys loved this Creamy Tuna Pasta so much! Thanks so much for your comment! 🙂

  11. 5 stars
    I took this as inspiration and made it my own with whole wheat bowtie pasta, oat milk, and some frozen broccoli along with the peas. It’s delicious and comforting. Thanks!

    1. That sounds delicious! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

    1. I’m sorry I’ve never actually cooked with gluten-free pasta so I really don’t know. Wish I could be of more help!

  12. Still cooking, but it’s already looking great. Question though is – is there supposed to be a lot of liquid cream sauce while cooking? Mine seems to be very creamy – like soup-y.

    1. Oh no! What problem are you experiencing? I just tried the print button on all different browsers just now and can’t replicate an issue. Would love to help you figure this out!

  13. Honestly, it is what it is. Just pasta and tuna. Nothing special. Not terrible but not something I will recommend or make in the future again.

  14. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and it was great. Thanks for sharing. I used canned chicken since hubby does not like tuna but it worked great.

  15. Made this tonight. Turned out good. I don’t particularly care for tuna casserole, but I’d eat this again. Plus this is one of hubby’s favorites that I could never get right. He is loving it.
    Thank you for the recipe.

  16. 5 stars
    Made this last night, it was very delicious and hearty. I added just a couple of things based on personal preference, dried thyme to the onions while sauteing and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar at the end. I think this recipe is great as is and one can add their own flair to it. My husband asked for mushrooms to be added next time. If anyone’s is looking too soupy, you might not have the heat up high enough. I made this mistake and caught it half way through cooking time. I had to add a cornstarch/water mixture and omitted the extra milk at the end and it thickened up perfectly. Looking forward to trying the leftovers cold.

  17. 5 stars
    Made this and was pretty happy with the results! While cooking, it looked like it was going to be a fail but once it set it was a beautiful delicious pasta! My family loved it except my sister who didn’t like the lemon in it. Thank you!

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