Creamy Tuna Pasta

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This Creamy Tuna Pasta recipe begins by boiling together fettuccine and sweet peas, then tossing them into a mouthwatering cream sauce. The sauce gets its delicious flavor from sautéed onion and garlic, parmesan, and a tasty blend of seasonings. The dish is crowned with olive oil-packed tuna and a fresh hint of lemon. It’s a comforting meal the entire family will love and takes minutes to whip together!
 
Love easy tuna recipe? Explore some of our other favorite tuna recipes such as the convenient one-pan Tuna Casserole, these cheesy Tuna Melts, or our top-rated Tuna Macaroni Salad.
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Overhead image of the creamy tuna pasta

Creamy Tuna Pasta

As soon as the weather starts to cool down, I’m craving all the cozy comfort food! I’m talking soups, stews, a warming pot roast, and a personal favorite: this Creamy Tuna Pasta.

Growing up, my mom frequently whipped up creamy tuna over rice – it was always a big hit at home. This recipe is a little twist on mom’s fave, swapping out rice for pasta.

This Creamy Tuna Pasta recipe is the ultimate comfort food that whips together surprisingly fast! It takes the classic combo of pasta and peas, tosses them in a rich and flavorful cream sauce jazzed up with onion, garlic, and parmesan, and then tops it all off with flaky tuna and a fresh hint of lemon. It’s a hearty, delicious, and simple-to-make dish that’s sure to become a family favorite.

Ingredient shot- image of the ingredients used in this dish

Creamy Tuna Pasta Ingredients

  • Fettuccine (or linguine): Both types of pasta are fantastic in this recipe thanks to their knack for clinging onto creamy sauces. And remember, we’re using just 6 ounces of pasta – if you’ve got a food scale, it’s a great tool for nailing the perfect amount.
  • Frozen peas: An easy, convenient way to add some veggie goodness. They don’t need to be defrosted before adding to the boiling pasta.
  • Unsalted butter: Using unsalted butter allows you to control the salt content in your dish. It’s used here to sauté the onion and garlic and adds richness to the sauce.
  • Minced onion & garlic: Fresh is best for the most flavor. Be careful not to burn the garlic when sautéing, as it can turn bitter.
  • Chicken broth: This contributes a lovely depth of flavor to the sauce. Opt for a quality brand for a richer, more robust flavor – we’re fans of Swanson’s!
  • Heavy cream: This is the key ingredient that lends the sauce its luxuriously creamy texture. For the best flavor and a foolproof thick sauce, stick with heavy cream!

Process shots of creamy tuna pasta-- images of the butter, onion, garlic, and chicken broth being added to a pan

Ingredients Continued

  • Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated parmesan melts better into the sauce and has superior flavor over pre-grated varieties.
  • Mustard powder, onion powder & garlic powder: These pantry staples add a nice depth of flavor to the sauce. Feel free to adjust the quantities to suit your taste.
  • Tuna in olive oil: Tuna packed in olive oil is richer and has a fresher flavor. Our personal favorite is Genova’s® albacore tuna. 
  • Dijon mustard: This is optional, but it can add a nice tangy note to balance the creamy sauce.
  • Lemon and parsley: These are used for garnishing and add a fresh, bright finish to the dish. Always use fresh lemon juice for the best flavor, and flat-leaf parsley tends to have more flavor than curly.

Process shots-- images of the cream, seasonings, dijon, parmesan, pasta, and peas being added into the pot

How To Make Creamy Tuna Pasta (Tips)

  • Pasta Cooking: Always cook your pasta al dente, as it will continue cooking when you mix it with the sauce. This prevents the pasta from becoming too soft or mushy.
  • Salt Your Pasta Water: Salt the water you cook your pasta in generously; it should taste like the sea. This is the only opportunity you have to season the pasta itself, so don’t skimp!
  • Don’t Rinse Your Pasta: After draining your pasta, resist the urge to rinse it. The starchy film that clings to the pasta will help the sauce adhere to it.
  • Reserving Pasta Water: Don’t forget to save some of the pasta water before draining. The starchy pasta water can help thin out the sauce if it gets too thick, and it helps the sauce stick to the pasta.
  • Sautéing Onion and Garlic: Be sure to sauté the onion and garlic until they are golden but not burnt. Burnt garlic can add a bitter taste to the dish.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Use freshly grated parmesan for the best flavor and consistency. Pre-packaged grated parmesan will likely make this dish too salty!
  • Tuna: When adding the tuna to the pasta, try not to break up the chunks too much. Keeping some larger pieces of tuna can add a nice texture to the dish.
  • Seasoning: Season your dish gradually. It’s easier to add more salt or spices later than to correct an over-seasoned dish.
  • Serving: Serve the pasta immediately after it’s done. As it sits, the pasta will continue to absorb the sauce and can become dry. 

Overhead image of the creamy tuna pasta ready to be enjoyed

VARIATIONS

Variation Ideas

One of the greatest parts of this canned tuna pasta recipe is its flexibility. 

  • Creamy Tuna Pasta With Mushrooms: Add an earthy twist by sautéing mushrooms in a splash of olive oil and a pat of butter before starting on the onions and garlic. Transfer them to a plate, follow the recipe as usual, and then mix in the sautéed mushrooms at the end.
  • Creamy Tuna Pesto Pasta: Love pesto? Us too! Add a generous spoonful of fresh basil pesto onto individual servings. If opting to add pesto, use a low-sodium chicken broth to keep salt in check.
  • More Crunch: Love a bit of texture? Sprinkle some coarsely crushed buttery crackers or potato chips over individual servings for a satisfying crunch. Again, use low-sodium chicken broth if you plan to add a salty topping.
  • Creamy Tuna and Spinach Pasta: Boost the nutritional profile of your dish by stirring in a couple handfuls of fresh spinach just before the pasta is done. The heat will wilt the spinach perfectly, and it pairs well with the flavors of the tuna and cream.
  • More Veggies: Sneak in some extra veggies by substituting a cup of frozen peas and carrots for the plain peas, or throw in a cup of frozen corn! 
  • Spicy Tuna Pasta: If you like a bit of heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes when you’re sautéing the onion and garlic. The kick of spice will add a nice contrast to the creamy sauce.

Overhead image of the dish in a bowl ready to be enjoyed

What To Serve With Creamy Tuna Pasta

This Creamy Tuna Pasta is quite filling on its own, but if you want to round out your meal with some accompaniments, here are a few ideas:

  • Salad: A light, crisp garden salad is a great way to balance the richness of the pasta. A simple Italian salad would also work well, or a classic Caesar salad for something more substantial.
  • Bread: A side of garlic bread or crusty baguette is perfect for mopping up any leftover sauce. You can also try breadsticks or cheesy pull-apart bread for something different.
  • Vegetables: Steamed or roasted vegetables can also complement the pasta nicely. Try broccoli, asparagus, or green beans for a pop of color and added nutrients.
  • Dessert: Finish off the meal with a light dessert. A scoop of mango sorbet or a piece of tiramisu would be a wonderful conclusion to this meal.
  • Fresh fruit: Try our favorite Fruit Salad Recipe or Creamy Fruit Salad.

STORAGE

As with most pasta dishes, this recipe is best enjoyed the minute everything is tossed together. When reheating, you’ll likely need to add a splash more chicken broth to thin the sauce again. This dish doesn’t freeze/thaw particularly well.

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Creamy Tuna Pasta

5 from 14 votes
This Creamy Tuna Pasta recipe begins by boiling together fettuccine and sweet peas, then tossing them into a mouthwatering cream sauce. The sauce gets its delicious flavor from sautéed onion and garlic, parmesan, and a tasty blend of seasonings. The dish is crowned with olive oil-packed tuna and a fresh hint of lemon. It's a comforting meal the entire family will love and takes minutes to whip together!
Print Recipe

Creamy Tuna Pasta

5 from 14 votes
This Creamy Tuna Pasta recipe begins by boiling together fettuccine and sweet peas, then tossing them into a mouthwatering cream sauce. The sauce gets its delicious flavor from sautéed onion and garlic, parmesan, and a tasty blend of seasonings. The dish is crowned with olive oil-packed tuna and a fresh hint of lemon. It's a comforting meal the entire family will love and takes minutes to whip together!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Creamy Tuna Pasta
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 2 -3 servings
Chelsea Lords
Calories 728kcal
Cost $8.98

Ingredients

  • 6 oz fettuccine (or linguine) (Note 1)
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup minced onion (1 small onion)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 cup good chicken broth, separated (Note 2)
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (Note 3)
  • 1/3 cup freshly & finely grated Parmesan cheese (Note 4)
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: mustard powder, onion powder & garlic powder
  • 2 cans (4-5 oz each) tuna in olive oil, drained (Note 5)
  • Optional: 1/2 up to 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • Optional: Squeeze of lemon & fresh flat-leaf parsley

Instructions

  • PASTA & PEAS: Bring 12 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, stir in 1 tbsp fine sea salt and add the pasta. Cook for 1 minute less than the lowest time indicated on the package. When the timer rings, add the peas and continue to boil for 1 more minute. Just before draining, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta and peas.
  • ONION & GARLIC: Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the onion & garlic. Cook until golden, around 3-5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and stir, scraping the skillet. Allow it to simmer rapidly until most of the broth has evaporated.
  • CREAM SAUCE: Add the remaining 1/2 cup of broth, cream, Parmesan, seasonings, and dijon mustard if using (start with less; add more if desired). Season to taste (Hold off on the salt here and add 1/4 tsp pepper). Stir to dissolve the Parmesan and allow it to simmer for 2 minutes, stirring regularly.
  • TOSS WITH PASTA: Add the drained pasta and peas. Toss, using tongs, for 1-2 minutes or until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta nicely. If the sauce gets too thick, add a splash of the reserved pasta cooking water. Once sauce clings nicely to pasta, add the tuna and some finely chopped parsley if desired (I add 2 tbsp). Gently stir to combine, trying to keep the flakes of tuna intact if possible. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt if needed.
  • ENJOY: Add pasta to plates topped with additional parsley if desired. Serve with lemon wedges and an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if desired. Enjoy promptly.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Fettuccine (or linguine): Remember, we're using just 6 ounces of pasta - if you've got a food scale, it's a great tool for nailing the perfect amount.
Note 2: Chicken broth: This contributes a lovely depth of flavor to the sauce. Opt for a quality brand for a richer, more robust flavor - we're fans of Swanson's! If you're worried about saltiness, use low-sodium then add any extra salt as needed.
Note 3: Heavy cream: This is the key ingredient that lends the sauce its luxuriously creamy texture. For the best flavor and a foolproof thick sauce, stick with heavy cream! Other milks simply won't thicken the same way.
Note 4: Finely grated Parmesan cheese: Grab a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it on the small holes of your cheese grater. Gently pack it into your measuring cup and you're good to go! Avoid jarred Parmesan--it's too salty and will overpower the flavor!
Note 5: Tuna: Tuna packed in olive oil is richer and has a fresher flavor. Our personal favorite is Genova’s® albacore tuna. There is a lot of tuna in this dish (just how we like it!) If you'd prefer less, reduce according to personal preference.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 728kcal | Carbohydrates: 54.1g | Protein: 46.2g | Fat: 35.6g | Cholesterol: 109.3mg | Sodium: 569.7mg | Fiber: 4.3g | Sugar: 6.8g

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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40 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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!)

  3. 5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious! It was my 8-yr-olds night to make dinner.
    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. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 5 stars
    So happy to have discovered this!!! Couldn’t believe how yummy it was for being so quick and easy to make. Turned out AMAZING and my husband couldn’t stop saying how good it was. I agree :). Will definitely add this to the rotation.

  6. 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?

  7. 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!

  8. Made this for a quick Saturday night meal and the whole family (kids aged 6 and 8) loved it. 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! 🙂

  9. 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!

    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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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. Looking forward to trying the leftovers cold.

  13. 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!

  14. I’m so sorry this didn’t work out well for you. I’ve never had that problem, did you change the recipe at all?

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