If I will be remembered for any dish I have ever made it will probably be the seemingly disgusting sounding tuna and broccoli pasta bake.
It is my son’s favourite meal and has been a regular staple of my cooking repertoire for all of my adult life and a good part of my childhood. My mother was an early convert to the revolutionary side dish called ‘pasta’. Confidently branching out in the 1980s away from Spag Bol, lasagne, macaroni cheese and Heinz spaghetti hoops to include it in many of our favourite meals. It was mostly an accompaniment to fill the plate rather than a main event and was considered quite posh. No fancy sauces for us, just a load of butter. My friends with their boring mashed potatoes looked on in bemused envy.
Then things developed and somewhere in the early 90s Mac & Cheese got an upgrade to the mighty tuna and broccoli pasta bake. A lightly cheesy bechamel sauce, al dente penne pasta, a can of tuna and whatever wilting broccoli you have to hand, sprinkle generously with more cheddar and after twenty minutes baked in the oven you have one of the most delicious carb fests known to man.
My son can sense it being cooked the minute it goes in the oven and dances with glee. He loves it so much that this week he asked me to write it down in a recipe book for him for when he leaves home (or as an insurance policy in the event of my untimely death). He is not the only one to hold it in such high esteem. I was once called by an ex-boyfriend in the first few weeks of dumping heartbreak and given false hope that he might want to get back together with me only to find out that he was ringing because he wanted the recipe.
My husband has also adopted it as a favourite dish and recently angered us t&bpb purists by messing with the formula and adding sweet corn and tomatoes to the mix during our lockdown separated family shared weekly zoom dinner. There was a great deal of outrage in the Scottish camp, and upon tasting, he was forced to concede that it was better without his inventive meddling.
Anyway, it is a simple dish but it is one that has seen me through many good times, bad times, heart breaks, empty store cupboards, empty wallets and midweek meal meltdowns. So here it is in all it’s glory. Please enjoy as much as we do:
Tuna & Broccoli Pasta Bake – Serves 2 greedy people
1 x small can Tuna Steak
220g Penne Pasta
1/2 head of broccoli (cut into florets)
40g Unsalted butter
25g Plain Flour
50g Cheddar Cheese (grated)
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
2. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli for a further 2 minutes and then drain.
3. Drain the tuna and mix with the pasta and broccoli in an ovenproof baking dish.
4. Make the bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Whisk the flour in until it forms a smooth paste and then gradually add the milk until it is all incorporated. Leave to heat gently until it begins to thicken, then stir in two tablespoons of the grated cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Pour the sauce over the pasta and then mix gently to combine. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
6. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling.