This Healthy Tuna Pasta recipe is a great dinner option when you’re 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Did you make this pasta dish? If so, please rate the recipe below.
Healthy Tuna Pasta Recipe
- 1 medium onion (finely chopped)
- 4 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley (stems removed and chopped)
- ½ teaspoon Italian chili flakes (adjust to taste)
- 2 cans tuna in olive oil (drained)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ⅓ cup white wine
- 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (halved)
- ⅓ cup capers (salt-packed or packed in brine)
- ¼ cup bread crumbs (finely chopped)
- 1 pound dry pasta
- salt (to taste)
- black pepper (to taste)
- 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.
Hungry For More Pasta?
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. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.
Original Publication Date: April 3, 2020