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This creamy tuna mushroom pasta recipe is super-easy to make in just 30 minutes and tossed with the coziest lemon garlic cream sauce.
Raise your hand if you grew up loving classic baked tuna casserole! ♡
Well for those of you who share my affection for a good retro-style creamy tuna pasta bake, today I thought I would introduce you to my modernized spin on this classic that we absolutely love here in our house. As you can see, there’s no baking, box mixes, or casserole dishes involved here. Instead, perfectly al dente pasta is tossed with a simple blend of sautéed mushrooms, fresh spinach, tender flakes of tuna, and a deliciously silky, garlicky, lemony, rosemary creamy sauce, then served a generous sprinkle of Parm and freshly-cracked black pepper on top.
It’s an easy breezy weeknight-friendly pasta recipe that comes together in just 30 minutes or less (basically, the amount of time it takes to prep and cook the pasta). And together, all of the ingredients combine to make each bite taste super fresh and flavorful and deliciously nostalgic. Especially that tuna, which I’m convinced is highly underrated as a pasta protein!
My husband has requested we make this recipe no less than three times this month, and asked me to be sure and mention that it makes for fantastic leftovers as well. So grab some cans of tuna from your pantry and let’s make some pasta for dinner tonight!
Before we get to the full tuna pasta recipe below, here are a few important notes about the ingredients you’ll need…
- Pasta: Just about any shape of pasta will work for this recipe, but I used farfalle (bow-tie pasta) for the pasta pictured here.
- Mushrooms: I used baby bella (a.k.a. cremini) mushrooms in this recipe, but feel free to sub in whatever type(s) of mushrooms you love best. We will sauté them in butter until browned.
- Garlic: I recommend adding a generous amount of fresh garlic cloves to this recipe, either pressed or minced.
- Rosemary: I always love the woodsy flavor of fresh rosemary paired with mushrooms, but feel free to use whatever favorite Italian herbs (fresh or dried, amounts adjusted to taste) that you happen to have on hand.
- Crushed red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper: I also highly recommend tossing in enough crushed red pepper flakes to add a touch of heat to the pasta sauce. And of course, always be sure to generously salt your pasta water and season the pasta with salt and pepper just before serving.
- Heavy whipping cream: I opted for a half cup of heavy cream (mixed with the starchy pasta water) to make this pasta sauce nice and creamy. But feel free to use half and half or a roux-thickened milk sauce in place of the cream for a lighter alternative. Or you can also just omit the cream entirely (in which case I would recommend amping up the lemon juice, Parm, and starchy pasta water).
- Parmesan cheese: We will also use Parmesan cheese to add some aged, salty, cheesy notes to the sauce. And as always, when adding cheese to a sauce, I recommend buying a block and freshly-grating the cheese yourself (versus buying pre-shredded cheese).
- Lemon: We will use both the juice and zest of a fresh lemon for the pasta sauce.
- Spinach: I also like adding in a handful of fresh baby spinach to this pasta, but any pasta-friendly greens that you love best (such as arugula, kale, or collards) would do.
- Canned tuna: Finally…the starring ingredient! I recommend buying a good-quality canned tuna that has been packed in olive oil, which we will drain before adding to the pasta.
Tips For Making This Pasta
The full instructions for how to make this tuna pasta are included in the recipe below, but here are a few important tips to consider too!
- Don’t rush the mushrooms: In order for the mushrooms to brown properly, they need to sit in the hot pan undisturbed until they really begin to brown on the bottom. So you want to give them a toss in the butter then wait, toss then wait, toss then wait. (Resist the urge to stir them too often!)
- Cook the pasta just shy of al dente: Ideally you want to cook the pasta just 30-60 seconds shy of being al dente, because it is going to cook a bit more once we add it to the pan with the creamy sauce.
- Put that starchy pasta water to use: Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta water just before you drain the pasta. We will toss it with the pasta and the cream sauce to help bind everything together and make the sauce rich and glossy. Also don’t hesitate to add more starchy pasta water as needed if the sauce seems a bit too dry.
- Use freshly-grated Parmesan: If possible, I really recommend freshly-grating your Parmesan cheese (versus buying it pre-shredded or powdered) which will help it to melt smoothly into the sauce.
Here are a few additional ways that you can customize this creamy tuna mushroom pasta recipe if you’d like…
- Add in some extras: There are endless fun ingredients that you could add to this pasta, such as toasted pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, or any number of veggies (i.e. asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, etc).
- Omit the cream: As mentioned above, feel free to omit the heavy cream altogether if you would like to lighten up this dish. Or alternately, you can swap in some half and half or a roux-thickened milk sauce in its place.
- Use a different fish: Canned mackerel would be a delicious (and more sustainable) alternative to tuna in this recipe. Or feel free to serve this pasta with pan-seared tuna, or a variety of smoked fish (such as salmon or trout), or filets of cooked fish (such as salmon, cod, tilapia, etc) that you prefer.
- Use homemade pasta: If you really want to kick this recipe up a mega notch, serve it with homemade pasta. Delish!
More Easy Pasta Recipes
Looking for more easy pasta recipes? Here are a few of my favorites that require very minimal hands-on prep time…
This creamy tuna mushroom pasta recipe is tossed with the coziest lemon garlic cream sauce and easy to make in just 30 minutes. Feel free to double the batch if you would like to use a full pound of pasta.
- 8 ounces uncooked pasta (I used farfalle)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 16 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
- 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 tablespoon finely-chopped fresh rosemary*
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (optional*)
- 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 small lemon, zested and juiced
- 2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach
- 2 (5-ounce) cans of canned tuna, drained
- fine sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
- Cook pasta al dente. Cook pasta in a large stockpot of generously-salted water until it is just 1 minute shy of al dente. (For ideal timing, I recommend adding the pasta to the boiling water after the mushrooms have been sautéing for 3 minutes, as indicated below.) Reserve 1 cup of the starchy pasta water for later, then drain the pasta.
- Sauté the mushrooms. Meanwhile as the pasta water heats, melt the butter in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so, until browned. Add the garlic, rosemary and crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Put it all together. Add the heavy whipping cream, Parmesan, lemon juice and zest, and 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water to the mushrooms and stir until combined. Add the baby spinach and canned tuna, followed by the pasta, and toss gently until the spinach begins to wilt.
- Season. If the pasta seems at all dry, add another 1/4 cup of starchy pasta water as needed. (Or you are welcome to add extra cream too.) Give the pasta a taste and season with salt and/or pepper as needed.
- Serve. Serve warm, garnished with extra Parmesan and freshly-cracked black pepper. Enjoy!
Rosemary: I always love the flavor of rosemary paired with mushrooms. But feel free to use whatever favorite Italian herbs you love best (amounts adjusted as needed).
Heavy whipping cream: If you would like to lighten this dish up, you’re welcome to skip the cream and add in some extra lemon juice and Parmesan (plus extra starchy pasta water, as needed) to make this a simple lemony pasta.
Canned tuna: I also recommend purchasing good-quality canned tuna packed in olive oil.