Pasta with Tuna and Arugula

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Best use of canned tuna ever! I first read about this classic Italian recipe years ago in the San Francisco Chronicle, and it has since become one of my favorite quick and easy go-to dinners.

All you need is canned tuna (packed in olive oil), garlic, olive oil, chili pepper flakes, baby arugula, and pasta.

You make a simple sauce with with olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, and tuna, and then toss it with the hot cooked pasta and greens. The arugula will wilt in the heat of the pasta.

Pasta with Tuna and Arugula

If you don’t have arugula, you can substitute fresh baby spinach to a similar effect. So easy! You can have dinner ready in just a minute longer than it takes to make the pasta.

Recipe and photos updated, first published 2008.

Pasta with Tuna and Arugula Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

While you are heating the pasta water, prep the ingredients.

This recipe requires tuna canned in olive oil. Tuna canned in water just doesn't work well with this recipe. If water canned tuna is your only option, drain it, and soak it in half a cup of good quality olive oil for an hour first.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (12 ounces) dried fettuccine, spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (more to taste)
  • 2 6-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • Salt
  • 5 to 8 ounces baby arugula

Method

1 Cook pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water (1 Tbsp salt for every 2 quarts of water) to a rolling boil. Add the pasta, return to a rolling boil, and boil uncovered until the pasta is al dente, cooked, but still a little firm to the bite.

2 Cook garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil; add tuna, salt: While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium-low heat. Add the garlic and hot pepper flakes and cook until garlic is fragrant.

pasta-tuna-arugula-method-1 pasta-tuna-arugula-method-3

Add the tuna and shred it into fine flakes with a fork. Season with salt. Keep warm over low heat.

3 Set aside a cup of pasta water: Just before the pasta is ready, set aside 1 cup of boiling water. You'll need this to add back to the pasta dish to keep it from getting too dry.

4 Combine pasta with tuna mixture, arugula, and some pasta water: Drain the pasta and depending on the size of your pan, either add it to the skillet with the tuna, or return the pasta to the pasta pot and add the tuna mixture to the pasta.

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Add the arugula and use tongs to toss together with the pasta and tuna. Add some of the hot reserved pasta water to help loosen the pasta.

The arugula will wilt as you toss the pasta and tuna with it. Add more pasta water as needed.

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Adapted by a recipe in Putting the heat on late-winter salad greens by Janet Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Like canned tuna? Check out more of our canned tuna recipes!

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Showing 4 of 49 Comments

  • Rusty Lillico

    Tasty and very quick to make, definitely a keeper for busy nights. I found a tablespoon or two of sliced sun-dried tomatoes (in oil) added not just a nice color note, but a nice hint of sweet that balanced well with the arugula

  • Al R

    Why can’t one use the olive oil the tuna came in? Too salty?

  • CJ McD

    This is a go-to meal when we’re in a hurry. I often sub spinach or kale but arugula is my favorite. Try adding some capers and a big sqeeze of fresh lemon juice to this for another twist.

  • Claire

    One of my all time favorites ever! A family standby, frequent in the rotation. So easy and so delicious.

  • Motyka

    I tend to only have canned tuna packed in water on hand… what it be okay to drain this and add olive oil? If so, how much oil should I add?

    Please see the introductory notes to this recipe. Yes, you can use tuna packed in water. Drain it. Cover it with olive oil. Let it sit for at least an hour in the fridge, preferably longer. It won’t be as good as tuna originally packed in oil though. ~Elise

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