When thinking of pasta dishes, this delicious tuna pasta recipe with rich tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, and garlic cloves will soon become your first choice once tried!
Prepared with simple penne (al dente, how else?), this easy meal is also quick to make, as it requires under 30 minutes from stove to plate.
It will come to no surprise that this simple canned tuna recipe came to me after a long day at work, hardly any food in the pantry (thank you, London rent!), and the necessity to feed us as quickly as possible something that didn't come out of a cardbox.
With Jay on his way back home with garlic baguette under his arm (figuratively, for a little French vibe!), I prepared a typical Italian tomato sauce base and jazzed it up with a little extra garlic, some red pepper flakes, and the last lonely can of tuna in the house.
It was a winner!
Now, with time this pasta dish has evolved, after trying multiple varitions and finally deciding on this simple tuna pasta recipe as the base for when we fancy something delicious, with medium heat (oh, yes!), and quick to prepare. Enjoy!
Ingredients Tomato and Tuna Pasta
- Tuna: The key ingredient for this dish! If possible, try opting for albacore tuna, which is rich in omega 3, preferably stored in extra virgin olive oil. Rio Mare in olive oil is a family favorite!
- Pasta: Key ingredient number two! Any pasta shape will do, however, penne tend to have a good grip on the sauce; good alternatives are tortiglioni, rigatoni, shells, or fusilli. De Cecco is a great choice if looking for well-priced yet good-quality pasta.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Its flavor works wonders with tuna and tomato sauce, however, if not available an unflavored vegetable oil, such as sunflower oil, will work instead.
- Onion, and Garlic Cloves: They bring consistency and richness to the tomato sauce; feel free to use any color onions you have available.
- Red Pepper Flakes, and Black Pepper: These are the ingredients that bring heat to the dish, so you can adjust their quantities as you like. If possible, opt for freshly cracked black pepper, rather than ground black pepper, as its flavor is fresher.
- Tomato Paste, and Tomato Sauce: The tomato paste is an added extra, so if you don't have it, you can skip it, although it is recommended if the tinned tomato sauce is quite watery. In regards to the tomato sauce, while I used passata, this can be exchanged for tinned chopped tomato, cherry tomato sauce, or any plain tomato sauce you like.
- Anchovies: OPTIONAL. They bring that extra depth to the dish. Those prepared in Sicily offer a great Mediterranean twist!
- Sugar: OPTIONAL. The sugar is required only if the tomato sauce is too acidic.
- Salt: To season as required.
How to Make Tuna Pasta?
- To prepare the tuna sauce for pasta, sauté onion, garlic and a bit of salt in olive oil and, once soft, add chopped anchovies; once these have blended well with the base, add the tuna and the chili flakes.
- Allow the canned tuna to change color while mixing it in the sauce, then add the tomato puree and the parsley; lightly fry the tuna mixture with the tomato puree, before adding the tomato passata and some sugar (only needed if the tomato passata is acidic).
- At this stage, allow the sauce to simmer away and cook well while you boil the pasta al dente.
- Once both the tuna sauce and the pasta are cooked, drain the pasta and add it to the spicy sauce, mix well and serve!
People Also Ask [FAQs]
This dish can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days. Ensure it is piping hot before serving it when reheating the pasta dish.
When reheating tuna pasta, mix a couple of tablespoons of water into it, then put the saucepan on medium heat with a lid on. Allow the water to steam through the dish while warming it up; mix frequently to ensure the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom and serve as soon as fully hot, so as not to overcook the pasta.
Tips and Tricks for Tomato and Tuna Pasta Recipe
- Add ons: To make this recipe your own feel free to add some more Mediterranean ingredients to the sauce. Kalamata olives, grilled red peppers, as well as fresh herbs such as chives all work wonderfully in this dish.
- Grated Parmesan Cheese and Lemon Juice: These two ingredients don't really work in this recipe, so I would advise against adding them.
- Package Instructions: I recommend cooking the pasta al dente following package directions, as you will be simmering it for a few minutes in the tuna sauce as well and overcooked pasta is not as good as perfectly cooked pasta!
- Pasta Water: When draining the pasta, do not over drain it, as the little cooking water that is trapped in between pasta makes the sauce even creamier when mixing.
- Serve With: For the ultimate full meal, serve this with a fresh crunchy green salad, some roasted fennel or Mediterranean Veggies, and some lightly toasted ciabatta bread served with garlic butter.
Featured Article: The Ultimate List of Italian Spices
For an easy, tasty, quick tuna pasta recipe, this is the one to go for. Deliciously al dente penne pasta covered in rich spicy tomato sauce, with a hint of garlic and chunks of tuna, all in one great bow.
Try this tuna pasta recipe out and you won't be disappointed; it is one of my family's favorites, and it may become yours too!
Looking for more pasta recipes?
Perfect Tomato and Tuna Pasta Recipe
- 240 g dry uncooked pasta I used mezze penne
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 150 g finely sliced red onion
- 2 cloves fresh garlic
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes or as liked
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper powder or as liked
- 6 anchovies ideally in olive oil
- 1 tin tuna in water drained weight 100g/ 3.5 oz
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon dry parsley
- 700 g tomato passata
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar only needed if the tomato sauce is very acidic
- Water as needed
- Salt to taste
- Drain the tuna, chop the anchovies, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, put a large frying pan on the fire and warm up the olive oil; once this is warm add to it the onion, garlic, and a bit of salt, mix well, cover the pan and lower the flame to minimum.
- Once the onion becomes transparent and soft (on a low flame it should take about 5-7 minutes) add the anchovies, and turn the heat to medium; once the anchovies are lightly fried (1-2 minutes) add the tuna, chili flakes and black pepper and mix well.
- Once the tuna changes color, add the tomato paste and parsley to the pan and fry well; then, add the tomato passata, the granulated sugar (if required), and 1 cup of water. Mix well, cover with the lid, and put on low flame again until the tomato sauce is fully cooked. I like to simmer mine very gently for at least 15-20 minutes.
- While the sauce is cooking, bring a pan of water to a boil and cook the pasta.
- Once the pasta and the sauce are ready, drain the pasta (do not over-drain it!) and add it to the sauce pan with the sauce. Mix it well through and through while on a low flame for about a minute.
- The best part of the recipe: serve and enjoy!