This simple tuna pasta recipe comes together in 20 minutes or less! You'll love the texture and bold Mediterranean flavors thanks to ingredients like garlic, bell peppers, parsley, lemon, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Quality canned tuna is the ultimate lazy-girl way to get some fish in your diet. And it can be dinner on busy week nights when you don't have the time to spare!
If you're wondering, "what can I add to canned tuna for dinner?" One easy answer is pasta! And check your freezer and fridge for loan veggies and herbs.
This canned tuna pasta recipe is quick and uses pantry ingredients you may already have on hand. It's not a fancy dinner by any means, but it is absolutey delicious and packed with bold Mediterranean flavors that will please adults and kids alike!
Tuna Spaghetti, Mediterranean-Style
The beauty of this spaghetti tuna recipe is that it features some simple, yet flavor-packed ingredients that fit very well within the Mediterranean diet (and if you are following a strict Mediterranean diet, use whole wheat pasta here).
Here, the tuna pasta is tossed with peas, crispy bell peppers, and some bold Mediterranean flavors, including garlic, lemon, a few kalamata olives (or capers, if you prefer). I like finishing this pasta with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.
True to Mediterranean eating, no heavy, creamy sauces needed, this tuna pasta relies on a bit of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of lemon juice + a bit of the cooking pasta water. (I'm a big fan of olive oil pasta).
The beauty of this one-pan dish is that it really doesn't need anything next to it. But if you like, you can add a big salad to start the meal.
What kind of tuna to use?
I answered this question before when I shared my Mediterranean tuna salad (another great option you should try sometime), but it bears chatting about again here.
Tuna on its own can be a wonderful healthy protein option. It is also nutrition rich, containing B-6, B12, vitamin A, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids.
There are a couple of kinds out there, white albacore and chunk light, which tends to be too flaky and shredded almost beyond recognition. I mostly turn to responsibly caught Albacore. It is a bit more expensive but it is higher in heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
And then there is the choice between tuna packed in either olive oil or water. If you're concerned about the fat content, your best bet will be tuna packed in water. I've used both in the past, but I do prefer to add my own extra virgin olive oil, that way I can use an olive oil I love and I can also control the amount (here are the olive oils I use).
Mercury levels in tuna can be a health concern, which is why my family consumes tuna no more than once every two weeks. (Talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns about eating canned tuna)
Pantry and freezer staples absolutely shine in this spaghetti tuna recipe. Here are the ingredients:
- Pasta- I like spaghetti but any pasta you have on hand will do. And if you are following a stricter Mediterranean diet, use whole grain pasta.
- Tuna- 2 5-oz cans of tuna. If you use quality canned tuna that's packed in extra virgin olive oil, you do not have to drain the tuna. (Tip: give it a little taste before using the oil in this recipe).
- Frozen Peas- about 1 ½ cups of frozen peas for a pop of green and a little sweetness. You do not need to thaw the peas in advance.
- Red Bell Pepper- if you don't have red bell pepper, you can use yellow or orange bell pepper which are also sweet and will add crunch.
- Aromatics and Spices- the flavor makers here include fresh minced garlic, fresh parsley, dry oregano
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil- as there is no sauce involved here, this pasta dish depends on good extra virgin olive oil to bring it all together. I used Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon zest & juice- lemon zest and just a small splash of lemon juice to help the tuna and adds
- Other flavor makers- kalamata olives and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese to your liking. If you enjoy a little heat, add sliced jalapeno peppers.
My biggest tip: get the pasta water boiling and go prep the rest of the ingredients. You'll have this canned tuna pasta on the table in 20 minutes!
How to Make Tuna Pasta: Step-by-step
(print-friendly recipe with ingredient list below)
This tuna spaghetti takes just a few small steps. Once you cook the spaghetti and peas, you'll combine them with the tuna, bell peppers, and a few flavor makers. Here is how:
- Cook the pasta & peas. Get a big pot of boiling water going and make sure you season the water well with kosher salt. Drop the pasta and cook for 5 minutes, then drop the frozen peas in to cook along with the pasta for another 4 to 5 minutes or until the pasta is cooked ot al dante (most spaghetti pasta will take about 9 to 11 minutes to cook).
Keep a bit of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta and peas.
- Cook the bell peppers and garlic. In a large and deep pan, sautee the bell peppers in a bit of extra virgin olive oil until somewhat tender, then add garlic and cook until nice and fragrant (this will take only a few seconds, do not brown the garlic).
- Combine the pasta and peas with the tuna and remaining ingredients. Now just bring this spaghetti tuna party together. Add the cooked pasta and peas. Add in the canned tuna then add all the flavor makers (lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, oregano, black pepper, olives, jalapeno if using, and a big sprinkle of Parmesan).
Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil and toss everything together and some of the pasta cooking water. Give everything a toss to combine.
More Quick Recipes to Try:
Browse our collection of top Mediterranean diet recipes.
Tuna Pasta Recipe, Mediterranean-style
- ¾ lb spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
- Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
- 1 ½ cups frozen peas
- Extra virgin olive oil (I use Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into thin strips
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 5- oz cans solid albicore tuna, drained
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of ½ lemon, more to your liking
- Handful chopped fresh parsley (about 1 ounce)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Black pepper, to your liking
- 6 to 8 pitted kalmata olives sliced
- 1 jalapeno pepper (optional), sliced
- Grated Parmesan cheese to your liking
- Bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Cook the pasta in the boiling water to al dante according to package (most spaghetti will cook in 9 to 11 minutes or so). After the pasta has been cooking for 5 minutes, add the frozen peas to cook with the pasta for the remainder of the time. When the pasta is ready, take ¾ cup of the cooking water and set it aside. Drain the pasta and peas in a colander.
- In a large, deep cooking pan, heat 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over medium-high till shimmering but not smoking. Add the red bell peppers and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, tossing regularly. Add the garlic and cook, tossing frequently, for 30 seconds or so until fragrant.
- Now, add the cooked pasta and peas to the pan and toss to combine. Add the tuna, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, oregano, black pepper, kalamata olives, jalapeno if using, and a big sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil and some of the pasta cooking water as needed. Give everything a toss. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
- Transfer the tuna pasta to serving bowls. Enjoy!
- Time Saving Tip: Get the pasta water boiling and begin to prep the rest of the ingredients while the pasta cooks.
- Cook's Tip: Most spaghetti pasta will take anywhere from 9 to 12 minutes to cook in boiling water. After 5 minutes of cooking, that's when you'll add the frozen peas which will cook together with the spaghetti for the rest of the time. You do not need to thaw the frozen peas before using in this recipe.
- Cook's Tip: If you're using quality canned tuna that's packed in good extra virgin olive oil, you do not need to drain the tuna. The olive oil from the can will be highly flavored and will enhance this pasta dish.
- For Mediterranean Diet friendly: use whole grain pasta
- Visit Our Online Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including our Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil.
*This post was recently updated with more information for readers' benefit.