Pasta al tonno is a simple pasta made with canned yellowfin tuna, capers, and olives in a tomato sauce.  It’s budget-friendly and comes together in about 35 minutes making it a staple for busy weeknights!

Hands holding small bowl of pasta al tonno with fork and parsley garnish.

Pasta al tonno, or pasta with tuna sauce, is a go-to in our home because it’s comprised of ingredients we almost always have on hand and is so easy to make!

In the time it takes to boil water and cook your pasta, the tuna rosso sauce can be made; we discuss this recipe and more on our podcast episode, Doable 30-Minute Meals.

This recipe features canned or jarred oil-packed yellowfin tuna, capers, anchovy, and olives making it very similar to pasta puttanesca.

We also include passata (tomato puree) which makes it a rosso, or red sauce, as opposed to our white tuna pasta recipe.

This simple pasta is great on its own but would pair perfectly with some sauteed broccoli rabe or followed by a simple green salad with Italian vinaigrette.

Ingredients shown: tuna in oil, anchovy, garlic, olive oil, passata, olives, capers, rigatoni, hot red pepper flakes, and parsley.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Rinse and drain 2 tablespoons of capers, slice 6 cloves of garlic, and mince 1/4 cup of flat-leaf Italian parsley.  Soak 1/4 cup of pitted oil-cured olives for 5-10 minutes, then rinse and chop. Heat a large pan to medium and add 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, the garlic, and 3 small anchovy fillets.  Saute for 2-3 minutes, or until the garlic is golden and the anchovies melt.

Pasta al tonno recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. Add the capers and olives to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, then add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.
  2. Add 10-12 ounces of canned or jarred yellowfin tuna to the pan and use a spoon to gently break it up.

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Add one 24-ounce jar of passata and bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.  At this time, add 1 pound of rigatoni or other tubular pasta to the boiling water and cook until 1 minute less than al dente.
  2. Add the pasta to the red tuna sauce and toss to coat well.  

Recipe process shot collage group number three.

  1. If the pasta is at all dry, add a touch of pasta water until the desired consistency is achieved, and allow the pasta to cook until al dente.  Remove the pan from the heat and taste test, adjusting salt (you probably won’t need any!) and pepper to taste.  Add the parsley to the pasta al tonno, then serve and enjoy!

Rigatoni al tonno in large black pan on blue napkin.

Top tips

  • Ingredients.  Since there are few ingredients in pasta al tonno, use the best quality ingredients you can find. 
  • Tuna. The tuna is the star of the show in this dish so use the best canned or jarred tuna your budget permits. Yellowfin tuna that’s packed in olive oil is preferred over albacore in water for pasta al tonno.
  • Olives and capers. The olives and capers contribute to the saltiness of this dish, as do the anchovies.  Rinsing the olives and capers is important to prevent an overly-salty tuna pasta.
  • Passata.  We use passata here but you can also use crushed or whole canned tomatoes.  Passata is simply another word for tomato puree.  It’s thick and can make a great sauce in only a few minutes.
  • Save your pasta water! We say this in all our pasta recipes because it’s important.  Be sure to reserve pasta water and use it a little at a time to help create the best possible consistency.

Pasta al tonno in white bowl.

More pasta recipes you’ll love

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Pasta al Tonno

5 from 3 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 4
Pasta al tonno is a wonderful combination of canned yellowfin tuna, capers, and olives in a tomato sauce that's so easy to make!

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic sliced
  • 10-12 ounces canned yellowfin tuna
  • 2 tablespoon capers rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup parsley minced
  • 1 1/2 cups pasta water will not need all of it
  • 3 small anchovy fillets
  • 1/4 cup pitted oil-cured black olives chopped and soaked in water
  • 1 24-ounce jar passata

Instructions 

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  • Heat a large pan to medium with extra virgin olive oil and add the garlic and anchovies. Saute until the garlic is golden (2-3 minutes) then add the capers and olives to the pan and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Next add the crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds before adding the tuna pieces to the pan.  Lightly break the tuna apart with a wooden spoon. Add the passata and bring the sauce to a gentle simmer. At this time begin cooking the pasta until 1 minute less than al dente.
  • Add the pasta to the tuna sauce and toss to coat well.  If the sauce is too dry, add a touch of reserved pasta water. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta reaches al dente then remove the pan from the heat.
  • Taste test and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the parsley and serve. Enjoy!

Notes

  • No extra salt was added due to the addition of the capers, olives, and anchovies.  Adjust according to personal taste.
  • Use the pasta water to get the sauce just right and to avoid it drying out before serving.
  • Yellowfin tuna fillets packed in oil are preferred, but canned albacore can be used.

Nutrition

Calories: 601kcal | Carbohydrates: 99.6g | Protein: 35.5g | Fat: 8.6g | Saturated Fat: 1.2g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 216mg | Potassium: 880mg | Fiber: 7.6g | Sugar: 12.2g | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 8mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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6 Comments

  1. Hello! Got groceries following your ingredients section. Then once watched the video realised I am missing canned tomatoes. They are missing both in the ingredients and the instruction sections so added cherry tomatoes that I had in my fridge and sautéed them for a while 🙂 Recipe came out great! Just what I was searching for! Thank you!

    1. Hi Elizabeth, thanks for the comment. Instead of canned tomatoes Jim used a 24-ounce jar of passata for the recipe here on the website and that’s listed in the ingredients section of the recipe card and pictured in the ingredient photo. You could however, use canned tomatoes or cherry tomatoes as you did. We’re happy you enjoyed!

  2. 5 stars
    I have been making a version of this sauce for 30 years after an Italian-American friend taught me this recipe in college. She used crushed tomatoes and canned tuna. Later, I added capers to her recipe. This was the first time that I had used passata by following your recipe and the sauce came together much faster than it does with crushed tomatoes. Soaking the oil-cured olives made a difference but the sauce did not need any additional salt.

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe inspired me to make a childhood favorite. I love Pasta al Tonno, and was a great recipe. Left out the anchovies because I don’t like them, and was still great.