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.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

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

  • Mary

    The photos are beautiful on this, they really show the beauty of a simple dish. My husband makes this all the time, but uses baby spinach and sometimes some chopped tomato. It is delicious. Thanks for posting this, I’ll use it to remind my husband that he can and should cook more often.

  • Bradley

    I have made this with spinach to excellent results, thought the bite of the arugula would probably fare better with the hot pepper. Great recipe.

  • Kyleen

    Could you use the oil you’ve drained from the tuna as part of the oil for the sauce? (My great-great-grandmother always said “Make do with what you got”, along the lines of “Waste not, want not” . . .)

  • Amy

    I’ve made a variation of this recipe for years — its a harried weeknight staple at our house. I find the canned Italian tuna in olive oil gives the best results.

    Some good twists on the basic recipe include tossing some toasted pine nuts in at the end (I like the extra crunch) or substituting the noodles with TJoe’s frozen artichoke tortellini.

    P.S. Your photos are beautiful!

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