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.
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 wen 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!
- Classic Tuna Salad
- Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole
- Best Ever Tuna Salad Sandwich
- Pasta with Tuna and Arugula
- Tuna Macaroni Salad
Mediterranean Tuna Pasta
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).
- 2 (5-ounce) cans of albacore tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), drained
- 1 tomato, cored, cut in half crosswise and squeezed of excess juice, chopped (about 1 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 tablespoon 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Serve and enjoy!
Serve warm as a light lunch or a dinner side.