Tuna and Tomato Pasta Casserole

DinnerBudgetCasseroleCanned Tuna

A simple dish of pasta shells with a buttery tomato sauce, tuna and ricotta, all baked with a cheesy parmesan crust.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Featured in 14 Recipes That Make the Most Canned Tomatoes

Are you a fan of canned tuna?

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I love keeping a few cans on hand in the pantry, usually for whipping up the occasional tuna salad sandwich.

Tuna also works with pasta, quite well actually (check out tuna pasta with capers in white wine sauce). But I had no idea it also worked with pasta and tomato sauce and cheese until this dish, recommended to us by a reader (thank you Audrey), a favorite of hers from the 1967 classic Mama Leone’s Italian Cookbook.

We’ve changed the recipe only slightly from the one reader Audrey gave us, we’ve cut the butter in half, to 1/4 cup from a half cup. And we tossed in some chopped fresh basil, because we have plenty growing in the garden.

Oh my gosh, this is so good! Wow. And easy too.

Pasta with Tuna and Tomato Sauce

My only caveat is that I think you need to be a tuna lover (or liker at least) to like this recipe.

The recipe only calls for one 6-ounce can for a recipe that serves 4, so it’s not as if the tuna overwhelms the dish.

It doesn’t. But you definitely taste the tuna. Obviously if you want to skip the tuna, you can make something similar with a little bit of cooked Italian sausage in place of the tuna.

Tuna and Tomato Pasta Casserole Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8

Tuna packed in olive oil is highly recommended for this recipe. If all you have is tuna packed in water, you can try draining it and then adding olive oil to the can, and letting it soak in the olive oil in the fridge for several hours, but you will get the best results if you start with tuna packed in oil.


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 28-ounce can of tomatoes, whole or crushed
  • Salt
  • 1 pound pasta shells
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 6-ounce can tuna packed in olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or torn
  • A generous 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese


1 Simmer tomatoes with butter 30 min: Melt the butter in a medium pot on medium heat and add the can of tomatoes, including the juice. If you are using whole canned tomatoes (or fresh ones) crush them with your (clean) fingers as you put them in the pot. Simmer gently, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

2 Cook pasta: While the sauce is cooking, heat a large pot of well salted water to a strong boil. Add the shell pasta to the boiling water and cook at a vigorous boil, uncovered, until al dente, cooked through but still a bit firm to the bite, which is usually whatever the time specified on the pasta package minus about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3 Combine tuna, tomato sauce, ricotta, pasta, basil: Pour off the excess oil from the tuna can and stir the tuna into the tomato sauce. Add the ricotta cheese, and add salt to taste. Turn off the heat. Mix the sauce with the pasta in a large bowl. Mix in the basil.

4 Put into casserole, top with parmesan, broil: Pour the pasta into a 2 to 3-quart casserole dish and top with the parmesan cheese. Put under a hot broiler for 4-6 minutes, until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serve hot.

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Tuna Pasta Salad with Lemon, Olives and Capers - from Kalyn's Kitchen

Creamy Tuna Tomato Pasta - from Food Wishes

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

36 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Leah

    Fantastic recipe! Didn’t have ricotta, but subbed for cottage cheese – extra protein bonus! So simple and satisfying. Great recipe for when you don’t have a ton of groceries on hand. Looking forward to the leftovers tonight!


    Show Replies (1)
  2. Marianne

    Yikes, this looks too good!
    However there’s only two of us; has anyone just halved this recipe? I know I can’t freeze the left-overs…

    Show Replies (1)
  3. SandyG.

    The first time I make a dish I try to stick close to the actual recipe. This time I did cheat and added Penzey’s amazing garlic powder, Italian seasonings, plus I doubled the amount of ricotta. Since my 1950’s oven broiler is insane, I baked the dish for ten minutes then broiled for 2 mins.

    Absolutely delicious. I could tell my wife had her doubts about this tuna-tomato recipe, but once she tasted it, she was all “yummy!”

    I loved it due to the ease. Cook sauce in one pot, pasta in another larger pot. Drain pasta, mix everything into the pasta pot, then toss into the square casserole dish.



  4. Mary

    HELP, I don’t have ricotta in the house, what other cheese could i use?

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Jessica

    I made this in quarantine. Great alternative use for my tuna. Very tasty, quick and simple! My husband scraped the bottom of the casserole dish. Will definitely make again. Thank you!


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