These Spanish-style stuffed tomatoes with tuna, olives, and parsley make for a nutritious and satisfying gluten- and dairy-free pescatarian dinner. Make the most out of those end of summer garden tomatoes with this healthy and delicious recipe!
This stuffed tomatoes recipe comes from my first year in Barcelona when I lived in a homestay. Our host, Maria, generously made an elaborate dinner for us every night. Many nights, we would eat these simple yet satisfying baked tomatoes as we lingered at the table, chatting and practicing Spanish with her and her husband, Jaime.
Maria quickly learned about my passion for food and cooking. I cooked with her occasionally, paying attention to what was, for her, a matter of habit and muscle memory. I watched as she stuffed the tomatoes with an uncomplicated filling that held each ingredient in balance with another. She added lemon juice to brighten the richness of the tuna, sauteed onions, and reduced tomato pulp. Green olives provided salt and a touch of bitterness. Finally, she mixed in a small handful of parsley for its subtle herbaceous and peppery flavor.
No part went to waste! This stuffed tomato recipe, inspired from Maria’s kitchen, saves the tomatoes’ juice to flavor the filling. They’re perfect for dinner, lunch, breakfast–you name it. This simple recipe is sure to become a part of your kitchen too.
Table of Contents
What You’ll Need for Stuffed Tomatoes with Tuna
What my go-to recipes have in common is a short ingredient list, and this recipe is no exception. With just a few components, these simple stuffed tomatoes shine when you select exceptional ingredients.
- Extra virgin olive oil: I may not live in Spain anymore, but I developed a penchant for Spanish olive oil that has stayed with me. Hojiblanca, with its moderate intensity and fruity flavor, is excellent for cooking.
- Tomatoes: The recipe is often made with Montserrat tomatoes, an heirloom variety widely cultivated in Cataluña. Other heirloom cultivars, large tomatoes on the vine, or beefsteak tomatoes work just as well. Choose firm, large tomatoes, about the size of a baseball.
- Onion and garlic: Onion and garlic, along with the pulp from the tomatoes, form the aromatic base, or sofrito, for the filling.
- Tuna: Use good quality tuna packed in olive oil.
- Olives: I like to use green olives, which are saltier and tangier than black olives. Fruity black olives also pair well with tuna, so use your favorite or what you have on hand.
- Parsley: Italian flat-leaf parsley adds more than just color. It has a fresh, almost peppery taste that brings out the other flavors in the filling.
- Lemon juice: Brightens the filling with its acidity.
- Salt and pepper: Essential for enhancing the flavor and draining excess water from the fresh tomatoes.
How to Make this Stuffed Tomatoes Recipe
Stuffed tomatoes only require thirty minutes of hands-on work. The oven preheats while you prepare the filling, and while they're baking, you can make some sides or just relax.
- Get ready. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish with a teaspoon of olive oil. Dice 1 onion and mince 2 cloves of garlic (see our guide for how to mince garlic the easy way for tips).
- Hollow out the tomatoes. Use a serrated knife to cut off the tops of 4 large tomatoes. You can discard them or save them to use as a lid. Scoop out the pulp with a spoon, working over a bowl to reserve. Be careful not to break the tomatoes as you go. Roughly chop any larger pieces of pulp, and save it, along with any liquid, in a small bowl for the filling.
- Salt the tomatoes. Add a small pinch (⅛th teaspoon) of salt to the inside of each tomato bowl. Set the tomatoes upside down on a plate to drain while you prepare the filling.
- Saute the onions and garlic. In a large nonstick skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until it’s softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Reduce the tomato. Pour in the reserved tomato pulp and juice and add the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook, undisturbed, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Finish the filling. Take the pan off the heat and add 10 ounces of drained tuna, ¼ cup of chopped green olives, 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and more salt if needed.
Stuff and Bake
- Fill the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes, evenly spaced, in the greased baking dish. Divide the filling equally among the tomatoes, mounding the tops. If you saved the lids, you can set them on top of the filling.
- Bake: Bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.
Variations on Stuffed Tomatoes
In my early cooking, I followed recipes to the letter, thinking that was how I would get them “right.” Nowadays, I view recipes as a guide or framework for a dish in addition to their intention when written. Here are some ideas for new directions you could take with this recipe in your kitchen:
- Try additional herbs: Toss in a bay leaf at the same time as the onions. Discard it before filling the tomatoes. Other herbs you could try are a teaspoon of fresh chopped thyme or oregano, or a half teaspoon dried, added at the same time as the minced garlic.
- Add broth: For extra soft tomatoes and more juices to dip your bread in, pour a half cup of vegetable or chicken stock around the tomatoes in the baking dish before placing them in the oven.
- Make it bolder: Use two tablespoons of chopped capers instead of the olives for more brininess. Or substitute one tablespoon of red or white wine vinegar instead of the fresh lemon juice for a richer touch of acidity.
If you want something all together different try our Greek Stuffed Tomato Recipe filled with ground beef and rice instead of tuna.
What to Serve with Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes
Sadly uncommon elsewhere, most restaurants in Spain offer a daily three-course lunch menu for a bargain. Stuffed tomatoes are one of the many typical options for a first course. If you’re planning a multi-course menu, take a cue from those restaurants because these tomatoes stuffed with tuna make an excellent starter.
For a full meal, serve them with a side of rice and a simple salad, like this vibrant saffron rice or Spanish rice and beans and lemon parmesan salad. The rice soaks up the juices from the tomatoes, and the salad gives the meal a refreshing crunch.
Browse all Mediterranean recipes.
Visit Our Shop
Finish with a drizzle of Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bold and peppery, our Spanish olive oil is harvested from 100% Hojiblanca olives.
Stuffed Tomatoes with Tuna
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
- 4 large tomatoes, like beefsteak, on the vine, or heirloom (about 2 lbs)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 (5-ounce) cans quality tuna packed in olive oil, drained and roughly flaked
- ¼ cup chopped green olives
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Black pepper
- Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly coat the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with olive oil.
- Hollow out the tomatoes. Use a serrated knife to cut off the tops of the tomatoes. You can discard them or save them to use as a lid. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. Roughly chop the scooped-out flesh, and transfer it, along with any liquid on the cutting board, into a small bowl for the filling.
- Salt the tomatoes. Add a small pinch (⅛ teaspoon) to the inside of each tomato. Set the tomatoes upside down to drain on a plate while you prepare the filling.
- Saute the alliums. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Reduce the tomato juice. Pour in the reserved tomato flesh and and juice. Season with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook, undisturbed, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
- Finish the filling. Take the pan off the heat and add the tuna, olives, parsley, and lemon juice. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.
- Stuff the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes, evenly spaced, in the greased baking dish. Divide the filling equally among the tomatoes, mounding the tops. If you saved the top of the tomatoes, you can set them on top of the filling.
- Bake. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender.
- Serve. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.