Tuna Pasta with Tomato and Olives


Are you a planner? The ability to plan one’s meals seems like such a basic survival skill I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long with so little capability in this area. The saving grace for a poor planner is a well stocked pantry.

Today was one of those I’m-hungry-let’s-see-what’s-in-the-cupboard days. Fortunately we had pasta, canned tomatoes, and canned tuna. With those three ingredients as a base, lunch was looking promising! (Especially with the kalamata olives lurking in the fridge.)

Usually when we use canned tuna in a pasta dish, we use tuna packed in olive oil. It just disperses better in the sauce and is more intensely flavored. But today we had only albacore chunk tuna, so I added a little more olive oil to the sauce than I would have otherwise, and I added one minced anchovy.

Anchovies are terrific for kicking a pasta sauce up a notch, and making dry tuna packed in water taste more like oil-packed.

Tuna Pasta with Tomato and Olives Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Prep the ingredients while the pasta water is heating. If you are subbing onions for the shallots, mince them and let them cook a few minutes before adding the garlic and red pepper flakes.


  • 12 ounces shell pasta (conchiglie pasta)
  • Salt for pasta water
  • 5 Tbsp olive oil (or 3 Tbsp if you are using tuna packed in olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 2  teaspoons mince garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 5-ounce cans tuna
  • 1 anchovy, minced (optional)
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley


1 Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil (add 1 Tbsp salt for every 2 quarts of water). While the water is heating, prep the ingredients and start the sauce.

saute shallots garlic and red pepper flakes add tuna to the pan

2 Heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped shallots, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes at the same time to the pan. Let cook for about 30 seconds. Drain the canned tuna and add it to the pan. If you are using tuna packed in water and not olive oil, add 2 or 3 more Tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Break up any chunks of tuna with a fork or wooden spoon. Add minced anchovy if using. Let simmer for a minute.

3 Stir in the crushed tomatoes and olives. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to the lowest setting to gently cook while you cook the pasta.

add crushed tomatoes and chopped olives boil pasta

4 Add dry pasta to the pot of boiling salted water. Cook uncovered at a vigorous full boil until al dente—cooked, but still a little firm to the bite, about 13-14 minutes.

stir pasta with sauce

5 Drain the pasta and stir into the sauce. Toss with chopped fresh parsley.

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Tuna Tomato Pasta with Olives

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Showing 4 of 19 Comments

  • Lauren

    Oh this is one of our go-to favorites! We usually use halved cherry tomatoes though. So good…and so easy! Perfect weeknight meal. May have to make it tonight!

  • Prema Picardi

    I wasn’t sure if I’d like this recipe or not. I’ve never had tuna with tomato sauce and pasta together. I was curious , so I gave it a try. It turned ou to be a really easy, tasty midweek meal with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next few days. I used fire roasted crushed tomatoes, cilantro instead of parsley and I doubled the amount of olives because I love kalamata olives. I will definetly make this again when I am craving a tomato and pasta meal. The tuna is a great addition.

  • Anna

    Thinking of adding artichokes…..Thoughts? Let me know in the next 20 if you see this, please.

  • Sydney

    If you wanted to use fresh tuna, woudl you just pan cook the tuna and then use a fork to flake it? I’m just not a huge fan of canned tuna.

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