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!
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.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add 10-12 ounces of canned or jarred yellowfin tuna to the pan and use a spoon to gently break it up.
- 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.
- Add the pasta to the red tuna sauce and toss to coat well.
- 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!
- 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.
More pasta recipes you’ll love
- Pasta con le sarde – pasta with canned sardines, fennel, pine nuts, and breadcrumbs.
- Linguine with canned clams – the easiest white clam sauce recipe with canned clams.
- Lemon garlic shrimp pasta – seared shrimp, lemon zest, garlic, and parsley.
If you’ve enjoyed this pasta al tonno recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.
Pasta al Tonno
- 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
- 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!
- 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 information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.