Tuna Pasta with Tomato Sauce | Italian Recipe

Tuna pasta with tomato sauce is a timeless Italian dish that brings together simple, high-quality ingredients for a meal that is both quick and incredibly flavorful. This dish, known as “Pasta al Tonno” in Italy, has a rich history and is beloved for its ease and deliciousness. Our version features spaghetti, premium canned or jarred tuna, a homemade tomato ‘pulp’ blend, garlic, onion, parsley, and a hint of chili pepper.

Watch the Video Recipe!

Watch Flavia Diamante prepare a superb Italian Tuna Pasta with Tomato Sauce in this video recipe, filmed in Italy!


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The History of Tuna Pasta in Italy

The origins of tuna pasta can be traced back to coastal regions of Italy, where fresh fish was a staple in the diet. The dish gained popularity due to its simplicity and the availability fresh tuna.

However, not everyone has access to fresh tuna. This recipe instead relies on quality canned tuna, making it accessible to families throughout the country.

Look for quality tuna products—often found in glass jars. We want big pieces of tuna as shown here.

Choosing Quality Ingredients

The key to making an outstanding tuna pasta lies in the quality of the ingredients. Here’s how to select the best:

Premium Tuna

The choice of tuna can make or break this dish. Opt for high-quality canned or jarred tuna filets, preferably in olive oil for a richer flavor, or in water if you prefer a lighter option.

There are many subpar brands of tuna out there. We’ve found a few that are consistently good. When possible, choose tuna in a glass jar so you can see what you are getting. Here are a few brands that we think are reliable in terms of quality and that we often use:

Many Italians mix sweet tomato filets (or whole canned tomatoes) with puree to make the perfect sauce base.

Tomato Pulp Made with Puree and Whole Canned Tomato or Filets

You can absolutely use store-bought ‘tomato pulp’ for this recipe. However, one secret that makes Italian tomato pasta sauce recipes so tasty is this: Italians avoid store-bought tomato pulp. These products tend to be full of the more bitter, watery part of the tomato. Instead of buying store-bought tomato pulp, Italians in Italy frequently mix sweet tomato puree with a whole or filet canned tomato product (seeds and water removed).

Making your own ‘tomato pulp’ by blending these two products (tomato puree and peeled tomatoes) ensures a fresher and sweeter taste to your tomato sauce. This step, although minor, can significantly elevate the flavor of your dish. It’s an Italian secret worth adopting! Here are the tomato products that we can recommend:

Quality Spaghetti

Choosing the right pasta is crucial. High-quality spaghetti holds up better during cooking and has a superior texture that complements the sauce. We recommend checking out our Best Pasta Brand for our top picks. Look for brands that use durum wheat semolina and traditional methods of drying pasta. Here are a few brands we often use:

Finishing off our Tuna Pasta with Tomato with premium spaghetti!

A Quick and Affordable Lunch or Dinner Recipe

One of the greatest advantages of our Tuna Pasta with Tomato Sauce recipe is how quickly it can be prepared. With minimal prep and cooking time, you can have a delicious, restaurant-quality meal on the table in minutes. Despite its simplicity, the combination of flavors from the garlic, onion, parsley, and chili pepper, along with the homemade tomato pulp and premium tuna, creates a dish that is both sophisticated and satisfying.

Tuna pasta with tomato sauce is a perfect example of how high-quality ingredients can transform a simple dish into something extraordinary. By making your own tomato pulp, choosing the best spaghetti, and selecting premium tuna, you can recreate this classic Italian dish at home with ease. Whether you’re looking for a quick weeknight dinner or a dish to impress guests, tuna pasta is a versatile and delicious option that never disappoints.

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Tuna Pasta with Tomato Sauce | Italian Recipe

Discover the authentic flavors of Italy with our Tuna Pasta with Tomato Sauce recipe. Quick, easy meal to make in minutes.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 11 minutes
Total Time 26 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian, Mediterranean
Servings 4 people


  • 1 blender or immersion blender (optional) if you want to blend the two tomato products to create 'tomato pulp'


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 pinch chili pepper or to taste
  • 4.6 oz canned or jarred tuna filet quality
  • 8 ½ oz whole canned tomato or fillets after seeds and water removed
  • 11 ½ oz tomato puree sweet, from San Marzano tomatoes ideally
  • 1 handful flat leaf parsley minced
  • 320 g spaghetti
  • 1 pinch fine salt or to taste
  • coarse salt for the pasta water


Prepare the Ingredients

  • Mince the onion and parsley. Peel and smash the garlic.
  • Remove the water and seeds from the whole canned tomato or tomato filets.
  • Blend just the tomato pulp from the previous step with the tomato purée to create a sweet, pulpy sauce.
    8 ½ oz whole canned tomato or fillets, 11 ½ oz tomato puree
  • Drain the canned tuna.

Cook the Pasta

  • Cook the pasta (spaghetti) in salted, boiling water to 'al dente' according to package directions.
    coarse salt, 320 g spaghetti

Make the Tuna Pasta Sauce

  • Cover the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil. Over medium heat, add the whole (smashed) cloves of garlic. Infuse the oil with garlic, removing and discarding the garlic when the cloves start to turn color.
    3 tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves garlic
  • Add the minced onion to the hot oil. Sauté until tender and translucent.
    1 small onion
  • To the onion, add large pieces of (drained) canned tuna. Please use high quality canned tuna! Mix half of the minced parsley into the tuna and onions.
    4.6 oz canned or jarred tuna filet, 1 handful flat leaf parsley
  • Add the tomato sauce to the skillet. Give it a mix and add a pinch of red pepper to taste. Simmer for a few minutes to blend ingredients and heat the tomato sauce. Season with salt to taste.
    1 pinch chili pepper, 1 pinch fine salt
  • Add the cooked, drained pasta to the sauce. Mix to combine, plate and finish with a sprinkle more of minced fresh parsley.
  • Buon appetito!


Use Quality Canned or Jarred Tuna
Canned and jarred tuna can be delicious—or taste like cat food. It all depends on the product you choose. Look for tuna ‘filets’ or whole pieces of tuna. In addition to the brands mentioned in the article, we also like Tonnino which can be found at many groceries in the United States.
Keyword healthy, pasta, seafood
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