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Turn a humble can of tuna into a zesty, buttery Tuna Pasta with any long, slender pasta you like and a dead simple sauce. In less than 30 minutes with a handful of ordinary ingredients, you’ll have an elegant pasta that’s everyday easy.

tuna pasta served in an off-white ceramic bowl.

Not only is this tuna pasta recipe nearly effortless, it’s one of the best I know. With tender linguine and a no-cook sauce of good-quality canned tuna, a bit of garlic and lots of spark from fresh lemon and capers, it’s a quick and easy meal that’s worth learning by heart.

Ingredients You Need to Make Tuna Pasta

Tuna Pasta Ingredients on a white marble board.
  • Jarred or Canned Tuna: high-quality tuna – canned in it’s own juices or canned/jarred in olive oil are best
  • Garlic: a fresh clove
  • Lemon: You’ll need both juice and zest.
  • Olive Oil: good quality, extra-virgin olive oil
  • Capers: ideally non-pareil capers
  • Parsley: fresh flat leaf / Italian parsley
  • Linguine: or other long, slender pasta like spaghetti or bucatini
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Quality Ingredients

Because there are only a few pantry and staple ingredients in this tuna pasta, quality really matters. Starting with the tuna, the star of this dish. Some of the jarred varieties (like this one) are exceptional and well worth the price. But there are also excellent quality tunas that are more affordable, like this one and this one too.

And don’t skimp on the olive oil quality or the freshness of your lemon, parsley and garlic. With a no-cook sauce, there’s nowhere for mediocre ingredients to hide. And speaking of that…

How to Make the No-Cook Sauce

You’ll be warming the sauce in a way that might surprise you. Instead of heating the sauce in a pan or skillet, you’ll toss the ingredients together in a large, heatproof serving bowl set over your pasta water as it comes to boil. Clever, right? I wish I could say it was my idea, but it comes from the fun cookbook, No Cook Pasta Sauces, that inspired this recipe. 

tuna pasta served in an off-white ceramic bowl..

Recipe Options

Consider this recipe a starting point and feel free to embellish it. Here are just a few options:

  • Spice it up with a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.
  • Add leftover cooked vegetables (asparagus would be excellent!) or a handful of baby spinach or arugula to make it a meal on its own.
  • Add to the Mediterranean flavors with artichoke hearts, green olives or kalamata olives and/or sun-dried tomatoes. 
  • For extra heft, add a scoop of tender white beans.
  • Finish the dish with a handful of grated parmesan cheese.
  • Try different pasta varieties like bucatini, spaghetti, whole wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta.

More Quick and Elegant Pasta Recipes

How to Make Tuna Pasta

Gently toss tuna chunks and remaining sauce ingredients together in a large, heatproof serving bowl. Set bowl over a pot of cold water (the bowl should not touch the water) and bring to boil. When the water boils, set the bowl aside and cook pasta until al dente.

warming ingredients for tuna pasta sauce.

Drain pasta and add to the sauce; toss to combine. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Recipe Video

Tuna Pasta

5 from 7 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 28 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 685
Servings: 2 people
You make this one-pot pasta with a no-cook sauce by gently warming the sauce ingredients in a heatproof bowl over the pasta water as it comes to a boil. Adapted from No Cook Pasta Sauces, by Joie Warner.

Ingredients  

  • 6 ounces good quality canned tuna ideally in olive oil, drained
  • 1 large clove garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
  • 1/2 medium lemon juice and zest
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons capers drained
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 5 ounces linguine

Instructions 

  • In a heatproof serving bowl large enough to fit over your pasta pot, break drained tuna into bite-size chunks. Add garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice and zest, olive oil and capers; gently stir to combine.
  • In a large pot over medium-high heat, put water on to boil for pasta. Place heatproof bowl with tuna mixture over the pot (the bottom of the bowl should be above the water). Once the water reaches a boil, remove bowl and set aside. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions until al dente.
  • Drain pasta and add to sauce in bowl; gently toss to combine. Sprinkle parsley over and serve immediately.

Nutrition

Calories: 685kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 1114mg | Potassium: 426mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 716IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 3mg

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

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20 Comments

  1. Debra says:

    Thank you ! This was delicious. I used bucatini pasta. I will definitely make this again. Not my mother’s tuna noodle dinners for sure.(sorry mom)

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Bucatini is one of my favorite pastas. So glad you enjoyed this, Debra!

  2. Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary says:

    5 stars
    Not gonna lie (and I have zero shame in admitting) I eat a can of tuna at least twice a week. It’s super convenient and yummy! Definitely adding this beautiful pasta to my must-make menu because it looks delicious!! Can’t wait to try this recipe!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      I love to hear that, Cheyanne! Thank you.

  3. Valentina says:

    Marissa, this looks so delicious! I love that method of warming the sauce and this is a perfect dinner to get on the table in a short period of time. And with so much flavor! 🙂 ~Valentina

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thank you, Valentina! It’s such a fun and easy way to make a sauce.

  4. Sally Humeniuk says:

    5 stars
    This came up in my IG feed while I was talking with my daughter (who also follows you). She was just talking about being bored in the kitchen lately so this was just what she needed to see for something new but still simple and fresh. Also, I have everything for this incredible recipe! Including a very good quality tuna that Dave bought the other day. It’s smoked though, what do you think about that? I think I’m just going to go with it. This looks perfect, Marissa!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      You’ve made my day once again, Sally. Thank you! I think the smoked tuna will be delicious!

  5. Nanette says:

    5 stars
    Love all your recipes !!! Grazie !!!
    Their simplicity and flavours are just divine.

    Would adding a little wine make much of a difference ? And when and how could it be added to a no cook sauce ?

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Ciao, Nanette! Thank you for your kind words. I think a splash of wine would be very good in this sauce – I’d add it along with the other ingredients so they all warm together over the water coming to boil.