Pasta with Tuna and Capers in White Wine Sauce

Here’s a little secret: olive oil-packed canned tuna, chili pepper flakes, and pasta is a master combination (and classic Italian). One of my favorite dishes on this site is the tuna, arugula, chili pepper, pasta recipe. So when I stumbled on another variation with similar core ingredients in Giulia Melucci’s I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti I had to try it.

Score! If you like canned tuna and pasta, you must try this. I made one batch (serves two), ate half of it for lunch and the rest for dinner. Because I know someone is going to ask, if you don’t cook with wine, try substituting 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar and 1/4 cup of water for the white wine the recipe calls for.

Regarding tuna packed in water, I’ve tried it and believe me, it doesn’t work (dry, tastes bad). You need to use tuna packed in olive oil.

Pasta with Tuna and Capers in White Wine Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2

You can easily dress up this recipe with a few more ingredients - chopped garlic added at the end of the onion cooking, chopped tomatoes and/or olives in with the tuna, lemon zest to serve, etc.



  • Salt
  • 4 ounces bow tie (farfalle), linguini, or spaghetti pasta
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (plus more)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • Pinch chili pepper flakes
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper


1 Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt (1 1/2 teaspoons for every quart of water), return to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until cooked through, but still firm (al dente).

2 While the water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the recipe. In a large, wide sauté pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and chili pepper flakes and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes or so. Mix in the canned tuna, the capers, and the salt. Add the wine, bring to a simmer then lower the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes or longer, while the pasta is cooking. If the mixture begins to dry out, add a little more wine.

3 When the pasta is ready, drain it and add it in to the pan with the tuna. Toss to mix. Drizzle on a bit more olive oil over it all, then add the chopped parsley and a few grinds of black pepper to taste.

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Adapted from a recipe in Giulia Melucci's I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

Pasta with Tuna and Capers

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Showing 4 of 48 Comments

  • scott

    I used to make something very similar with sauteed onions/garlic and tomatoes, but have not seen oil packed tuna in the stores recently. Thanks for reminding me that I need to search out some good tuna.

  • Karen

    This looks easy and delish! Canned tuna packed in olive oil is so much more tasty than tuna packed in plain vegetable oil or water. I always purchase Tonno/Genova, Chicken of the Sea’s higher end brand. It is available at Trader Joe’s and some bigger chain grocery stores. You really have to have “eagle eyes” to find it amidst all the cans of tuna, though!
    TIP: If your grocery chain doesn’t carry Tonno Solid Light Tuna in Olive Oil but has Chicken of the Sea tuna, ask them to order it because their distributor can definitely get it.

  • caitlyn

    Looks great!
    Elise, I’ve tried your other tuna recipe before but could not locate tuna packed in olive oil (at a Bel-Air in Sac). Did I just miss it among all of the regular tuna, or do you think it’s in a specialty aisle?

    Don’t know about Bel Air, but Corti Bros carries an excellent brand, and Trader Joe’s carries tuna packed in oil as well. ~Elise

  • Donna

    You can use tuna packed in water. Just pour the water out and substitute 2 tablespoons of olive oil. You know it’ll be fresh and olive-oil tasty.

    I’ve tried it. Doesn’t work very well. But if you must, you’ll need more than 2 tbsp, and you’ll need to let it soak for a good while. ~Elise

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