Tuna, tomato & celery pasta bake

You don’t get any more retro than a tuna pasta bake (extra points for for using bow-shaped pasta and baking it in a Temuka pottery dish). I hesitated over sharing this recipe as it’s retro in a totally unfashionable way, but you know what? Who the hell cares — it’s bloody delicious and that’s the most important thing.

Tuna, tomato & celery pasta bake is a good way to use up those celery stalks that have been lurking in your fridge since you bought a bunch to make a recipe that only required one stalk of celery (but you added two, cos you live by your own rules). 

Tuna isn’t a fish I eat very much of due to concerns about over-fishing and mercury levels, however I found a can of line-caught tuna at Moore Wilson’s which made me feel okay about the purchase (plus it came in a fancy tin and I’m a sucker for European canned anything). 

Tuna, tomato & celery pasta bake

A recipe from my mum’s collection.

For the tomato sauce:

3 cloves garlic, grated or crushed

1 tablespoon oil

1 can whole Italian tomatoes 

75ml white wine (poured from a cask if you’re going full retro)

pinch of chilli flakes

pinch of sugar

salt & freshly ground black pepper

zest of a lemon

Put oil and garlic in a medium-sized saucepan and cook over and medium heat until garlic is starting to brown. Add the tomatoes, wine, chilli flakes, sugar, salt and pepper and stir until it starts to boil. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer gently. After 5 minutes, use a potato masher to gently break up the pieces of tomato (standing well back if you’re wearing a light-coloured top and no apron). Once the mixture has thickened but is still sauce-like (10-15 minutes) remove from heat and add the lemon zest.

For the celery:

2-3 stalks of celery, sliced into 1cm half-moons

2 tablespoons butter

freshly ground black pepper

1 can sustainably-caught tuna (drain off the oil or brine)

Melt the butter until it starts to bubble in a small saucepan and add the chopped celery and lots of black pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and add tuna, using a fork to break up any lumps.

For the pasta:

100g penne, spiral, or farfalle pasta (use gluten-free if required)

Cook in plenty of water for about two thirds of the recommended cooking time. You want to stop cooking the pasta before it becomes al dente, as it will get further cooking in the oven and you don’t want no soggy pasta. Drain and set aside.

Putting it all together:

50g cheese, grated (I used a mixture of cheddar and parmesan)

Take an ovenproof baking dish and scoop in half of the cooked pasta, top with half of the tomato sauce and add all of the celery tuna mixture. Sprinkle with a little grated cheese then add the rest of the pasta and top with the remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for around 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and browned and tomato juice is bubbling around the edges. 

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