Mediterranean Tuna Pasta

Mediterranean tuna pasta is the perfect mash-up of tuna casserole and Nicoise salad. This quick and easy recipe features canned tuna, fresh tomatoes, capers, red onion, mozzarella cheese, and kalamata olives. Makes great leftovers!

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta
Elise Bauer

The "holy grail" of recipe development is creating something that is easy to make, easy on the budget, can be made in 30 minutes, and is drop-dead delicious.

It's a goal to strive for and hard to reach, but this Mediterranean tuna pasta? Wow! I keep making it and eating it, making it and eating it. Today, I only got to make it, because my sweetheart and a friend came over and ate the whole batch!

What Is Mediterranean Tuna Pasta?

Think Nicoise salad meets tuna casserole, and you'll be somewhere in the ballpark of this recipe.

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta
Elise Bauer

Canned tuna is tossed with chopped tomatoes, olives, red onions, capers, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice, and then tossed again with hot fusilli pasta and shredded mozzarella cheese. The hot pasta melts the cheese into the tuna mixture.

Make it ahead if you wish. If you do, warm it in the microwave before serving.

The Best Pasta for Tuna Pasta

We recommend fusilli, not only because of its fun spirals. That shape of the pasta delivers more flavor as the tuna, cheese and other ingredients attach themselves to the corkscrews.

If you can't find fusilli, you can substitute rotini. What's the difference? Fusilli starts as a strand of pasta that's twisted into its spring-like shape. Rotini is usually extruded into its spiral shape. It's usually more tightly wound and slightly smaller in size.

If you must substitute another shape, we recommend something with nooks and crannies, like campanelle (little bells), conchiglie (little shells), or farfalle (butterflies or bow ties). Best not to use smoother shapes like spaghetti or elbows, since all the good flavors just slip right off.

The Best Tuna for Pasta Salad

For this recipe, we recommend albacore tuna, packed in good quality olive oil. If you prefer a lighter version, you can substitute water-packed tuna. However, the oil that the tuna has been packed in also adds an extra layer of flavor.

We recommend albacore tuna because it has a better flavor and a firmer, flakier texture.

Pasta Salad Troubleshooting

This pasta is somewhere between a hot pasta and a pasta salad (it's delicious warm and very tasty leftover).

  • Cook the pasta al dente (still slightly firm). Overcooking the will get you mushy pasta salad.
  • Add salt to the pasta water, but not oil. The pasta absorbs the salt as it cooks and results in a better-seasoned pasta. Adding oil to the cooking water, meanwhile, leads to pasta that's too slippery to hold the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Even if you're using albacore packed in high quality olive oil, it's best to add the oil at the very end when you toss everything together. The cheese and other ingredients should stick to the pasta for the best flavor.

Save for Later

This recipe makes great leftovers! It’s perfect for a quick lunch at work. It's also a perfect recipe to enjoy for an outdoor picnic. It keeps well in the fridge for 5 to 6 days. Just be sure to warm it in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds.

More Easy Recipes to Make with Canned Tuna!

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Servings 4 servings

If you are using a good quality brand of canned tuna, packed in high quality olive oil, there is no need to drain. The oil is highly flavored. If you question the quality of the oil, drain it, and add back the same amount of your preferred olive oil (about 2 tablespoons, as listed in the ingredients).

Ingredients

  • 2 (5-ounce) cans of albacore tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), drained

  • tomato, cored, cut in half crosswise and squeezed of excess juice, chopped (about cup)

  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon capers, coarsely chopped

  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (more if you are using tuna packed in water)

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

  • 3/4 pound uncooked fusilli pasta

  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Method

  1. Put pasta water on to boil:

    Heat 2 quarts of salted water (1 tablepoon kosher salt) to a boil. While heating the pasta water, prep the ingredients.

  2. Stir drained tuna with the tomato, olives, onion, parsley, capers, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper:

    Place drained tuna in a medium bowl. Stir with a fork to break up the largest chunks of tuna. Add the tomato, olives, red onion, parsley, capers, lemon juice, olive oil (if needed), salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

    mediterranean-tuna-pasta-method-1
    Elise Bauer
  3. Boil pasta until al dente:

    When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and bring back to a boil. Cook, uncovered, at a rolling boil until al dente (cooked through, but still a little firm to the bite), about 6 to 9 minutes more. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

  4. Add pasta to tuna mixture, sprinkle with cheese:

    Drain the pasta and immediately add the hot pasta to the tuna mixture.

    Sprinkle with the grated Mozzarella cheese and stir until everything is well combined. If the pasta seems a little dry, add some of the reserved pasta water and/or some more olive oil.

    mediterranean-tuna-pasta-method-1.5
    Elise Bauer
    mediterranean-tuna-pasta-method-2
    Elise Bauer
  5. Serve and enjoy!

    Serve warm as a light lunch or a dinner side.

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta
Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
598 Calories
20g Fat
70g Carbs
34g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 598
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 25%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 44mg 15%
Sodium 750mg 33%
Total Carbohydrate 70g 25%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 34g
Vitamin C 11mg 57%
Calcium 215mg 17%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 541mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.