Pasta with Tuna, Arugula, and Hot Pepper


Canned tuna has never tasted this good. I came across this recipe on Sher’s What did you eat? blog, where she got it from the San Francisco Chronicle. You make a sauce for the pasta with tuna, olive oil, garlic, and chile pepper flakes. When the pasta is done mix it in with the sauce and add fresh arugula which will wilt with the heat of the sauce and pasta. If you don’t have arugula, you can probably substitute fresh spinach to a similar effect. Quick, easy, and surprisingly delicious.

The recipe calls for tuna packed in olive oil. This is pretty important. If all you have is tuna packed in water, drain the tuna and let it soak in olive oil for an hour before using.

Pasta with Tuna, Arugula, and Hot Pepper Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4.


  • 1 pound dried fettuccine, spaghetti or linguine (use gluten-free pasta for gluten-free version)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, or more to taste, finely minced
  • Generous pinch hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 6-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound baby arugula


1 Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and boil until al dente.

fettuccini-tuna-arugula-3.jpg fettuccini-tuna-arugula-4.jpg

2 While pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-low heat. Add the garlic and hot pepper flakes and cook until garlic is fragrant and sizzling. Add tuna and shred it into fine flakes with a fork. Season with salt. Keep warm over low heat.

3 Just before the pasta is ready, set aside 1 cup of boiling water. Drain pasta and return it to the warm pot set over moderate heat. Depending on the size of your pot and skillet, either add the arugula and the tuna mixture to the pasta in the pasta pot, or add the drained pasta to the skillet with the tuna mixture and add the arugula. Toss vigorously with tongs, moistening with some of the reserved pasta water. The arugula will wilt in the heat of the pasta. Divide among warm bowls and serve immediately.

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Linguine with Arugula, Tuna & Hot Pepper from Sher of What Did You Eat?
Putting the heat on late-winter salad greens by Janet Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle

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Showing 4 of 43 Comments

  • 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

  • Taylor

    Tried this once before, forgot about it, and revisited it tonight…..sooooo good! Works well for a poor college student too:) I added a little (1/2 tsp?) fresh ginger as well as some fresh lemon and kinda deglazed the pan with some white wine….definitely a winner!

  • saucy bill

    I made this and LOVED it, I did throw in a habanero (one) instead of the generous pinch hot red pepper flakes- and it took it to a whole new level!

  • Patty

    This recipe has become a household staple. Bravo Elise, thank you!

  • Debra

    I just made this for the 175th time and am amazed at how yummy it still is!

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