This Healthy Tuna Pasta recipe is a great dinner option when you’re stuck at home and crave Italian comfort food. It’s an easy recipe that combines a bunch of common, affordable pantry items to quickly create a super tasty dinner.
Traveling without a home base for three years encouraged us to become creative in the kitchen. Though we didn’t always have the necessary tools or cookbook recipes, we still wanted to eat well on the road.
Despite the culinary challenge, we were highly motivated to cook at home on nights when we weren’t eating out at restaurants. The longer we traveled without a home base, the more we craved comfort food that was tasty, inexpensive and healthy.
There’s no better example than this tuna pasta dish where earthy tuna, spicy chili and vibrant tomatoes combine to create something special. Daryl first developed this recipe in Italy, modifying it over time until we were both satisfied with the result.
Why We Love This Canned Tuna Pasta Recipe
We love this easy tuna pasta dish so much that we’ve nicknamed it ‘Pasta a la Daryl’ in honor of the creator. We enjoy this go-to recipe once a week when we’re not traveling.
Daryl whips his signature tuna pasta dish together when it’s just the two of as well as when we have friends visiting from out-of-town. It’s a relatively quick to make, inexpensive crowd-pleaser.
Healthy Tuna Pasta Ingredients
As the name suggests, the two main ingredients in this tuna pasta recipe are pasta and tuna. The full ingredient list is as follows:
Although the combination of canned tuna and pasta blends well with tomatoes and onions in this recipe, flavorful ingredients like chili peppers and capers add a salty, spicy hit.
Confession: Sometimes we forget to add the capers, but that’s okay since they’re optional.
Splurge on a jar of Italian salted capers on Amazon.
This flexible recipe can be modified based on what’s in the pantry. Even the fresh ingredients can be replaced if necessary, though we recommend using fresh grape, cherry or plum tomatoes and herbs like parsley or basil.
Since we live in Lisbon, we always have canned tuna in our pantry. The Portuguese have been canning fish since the middle of the 19th century and the tins are as popular as ever. Though we can easily find canned sardines, salmon and other fish varieties at local Lisbon markets, canned tuna is our favorite and, most important, it’s cheap.
Read the story behind our move to Lisbon.
We recommend using tuna in olive oil. It just tastes better than tuna in water. We also recommend draining the tuna well so you don’t have an oily mess.
Who doesn’t like pasta? We love the Italian food staple and always have several types of noodles on hand. Daryl likes spaghetti and linguini best, while Mindi prefers chewy shapes like farfalle and gemelli.
We alternate between these two types of pasta depending on our mood and what’s in the pantry. It’s only fair and both work well in this flexible tuna and pasta recipe.
How to Make Healthy Tuna Pasta
You can carefully follow our recipe step-by-step or add your own twist. For example, you can adjust the amount of chili pepper based on your heat tolerance.
Another option is to replace fresh tomatoes with a 15 ounce can of whole tomatoes (which you can crush by hand at home), tomato puree or, for best results, passata – precooked jarred, unseasoned tomato puree. We prefer Ciro Passata Rustica. More on that in a later article.
Buy jars of Cirio Passata Rustica on Amazon.
Healthy Tuna Pasta Recipe
This is essentially a two-pot dish. We recommend using a 10″ to 12″ sauté pan for the sauce and any large pot for the pasta. We use a 12″ stainless steel All Clad pan that was originally a wedding gift – it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Buy an All Clad Sauté Pan on Amazon.
Don’t worry if you can’t eat all of the Healthy Tuna Pasta in one sitting. In our experience, the cold leftovers taste surprisingly good.
Healthy Tuna Pasta
This healthy tuna pasta recipe is both easy and cheap. You likely have all the ingredients in your pantry. Plus, it tastes really good.
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, stems removed and chopped
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (to taste)
- 2 cans tuna in olive oil, drained
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/3 cup capers (salt-packed or packed in brine)
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs, finely chopped
- 1 pound dry pasta
- Black pepper
- Preheat a 10" to 12" (28cm to 30cm) skillet at medium-high heat.
- Add olive oil and then onions to the hot skillet. Saute the onions until pale golden.
- Add garlic and chili pepper to the skillet as well as a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir and continue to cook for about a minute until fragrant.
- Add tuna to the skillet and stir a few times until incorporated. Cook the mixture until a noticeable layer of fond appears on the bottom of the pan.
- Add white wine to the skillet, scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Cook until almost all the liquid is gone.
- On a separate burner, add dry pasta to a pot of well-salted boiling water. Cook until al dente. (See pasta box for cook time.)
- Add tomatoes and capers to the skillet. (The capers are optional. If you skip the capers, add a pinch of salt instead.) Once the tomatoes are soft, reduce heat to low before adding half of the parsley.
- Turn down heat on the skillet while the pasta cooks.
- Four minutes before the pasta is ready, turn the sauce heat to high and add 2 to 4 ladles of starchy pasta water to the skillet. Gently stir and let simmer until a viscous sauce forms. You should be able to see the bottom of the pan when you stir with a wooden spoon. Turn heat down to low.
- Drain pasta in a colander and immediately add to the skillet. Cook over low heat for 30 to 60 seconds until the sauce incorporates with the pasta.
- Pour into a bowl and gently stir. Sprinkle bread crumbs and remaining parsley over the pasta.
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Hungry for More Pasta?
Make Bucatini Cacio e Pepe, Linguine Carbonara, Pasta alla Genovese, Pasta alla Gricia, Rigatoni Amatriciana, Spaghetti alla Bottarga, Spaghetti alla Gricia, Cincinnati Chili with Spaghetti or Mushroom Tomato Pasta, Thai Panang Curry Noodles with Meat Sauce or TikTok Pasta for dinner tomorrow night.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: April 3, 2020
Monday 21st of February 2022
My tuna/pasta fav is Pasta Tono. Uses linguini. Start linguini. In large pan over med heat add: 5 Tbls olive oil 5 cloves sliced garlic 10 unpitted oil cured black olives When garlic is ready: Flake tuna out of can into pan. Mix with oil garlic well. Reduce heat. When linguini is done, drain and add to pan and fold well into oil-tuna sauce. That's it. Make sure each serving gets several olives. You can add a small ount of chopped sundried tomatoes and basil, if you wish. A little grated parmesan, as well. But, the dish is delicious, with only the oil, garlic, olives and tuna.
Wednesday 1st of December 2021
How many ounces is each can of tuna?
Daryl and Mindi Hirsch
Wednesday 1st of December 2021
About 4.2 Oz but you could use a 5 oz. American can to substitute.
Thursday 25th of March 2021
This sounds terrific! I buy Ortiz Spanish, line caught tuna packed in Spanish olive oil. It's expensive so I would probably cut the recipe in half :) But thanks a lot.
Daryl and Mindi Hirsch
Monday 29th of March 2021
You may be able to find cheaper versions of tuna in olive oil at markets like Trader Joe's. That should work for the recipe.