Pasta with Tuna and Capers in White Wine Sauce

BudgetQuick and EasyCanned TunaPasta and Noodles

Pasta served with a sauce made with oil-packed canned tuna, onions, capers, white wine, and parsley.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Here’s a little secret: olive oil-packed canned tuna, chili pepper flakes, and pasta is a master combination (and classic Italian).

One of my favorite dishes on this site is the tuna, arugula, chili pepper, pasta recipe. So when I stumbled on another variation with similar core ingredients in Giulia Melucci’s I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti I had to try it.

Score! If you like canned tuna and pasta, you must try this.

I made one batch (serves two), ate half of it for lunch and the rest for dinner. Because I know someone is going to ask, if you don’t cook with wine, try substituting 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar and 1/4 cup of water for the white wine the recipe calls for.

Regarding tuna packed in water, I’ve tried it and believe me, it doesn’t work (dry, tastes bad). You need to use tuna packed in olive oil.

Pasta with Tuna and Capers in White Wine Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2

You can easily dress up this recipe with a few more ingredients - chopped garlic added at the end of the onion cooking, chopped tomatoes and/or olives in with the tuna, lemon zest to serve, etc.


  • Salt
  • 4 ounces bow tie (farfalle), linguini, or spaghetti pasta
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (plus more)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • Pinch chili pepper flakes
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper


1 Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt (1 1/2 teaspoons for every quart of water), return to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until cooked through, but still firm (al dente).

2 Cook the onions and chili pepper flakes: While the water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the recipe. In a large, wide sauté pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and chili pepper flakes and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes or so.

3 Mix in the canned tuna, the capers, and the salt. Add the wine, bring to a simmer then lower the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes or longer, while the pasta is cooking. If the mixture begins to dry out, add a little more wine.

4 Add the drained pasta to the tuna mixture: When the pasta is ready, drain it and add it in to the pan with the tuna. Toss to mix.

Drizzle on a bit more olive oil over it all, then add the chopped parsley and a few grinds of black pepper to taste.

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Adapted from a recipe in Giulia Melucci's I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

Pasta with Tuna and Capers

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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50 Comments / Reviews

No ImagePasta with Tuna and Capers in White Wine Sauce

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Lee Thayer

    Worthy of 10 stars! Absolutely delicious. I did add cherry tomatoes and used lemon pepper. This is a keeper, thank you Elise :)


  2. Janine

    Came across this recipe today. Quick, easy and very tasty! Will be making again.


  3. Elaine

    Such a fabulous pasta! I like the recipe and I really like the colors – such a masterpiece! Thank you so much for sharing this – cheers!


  4. Karen Parmelee

    My husband and I LOVE this recipe! I almost always have all of the ingredients on hand, it’s quick and easy, and quite delicious and very satisfying. Just as the add-on list suggests, I add tomatoes (cherry tomatoes, cut in half) in the last few minutes of the cooking time, as well as the lemon zest. I also increase the capers to 1 1/2 T. and double the flat leaf parsley. We eat this often at my house. SUCH a tasty, easy recipe! Thank you!!!


  5. Valerie

    This is very close to what my nonna used to make. Usually she would make it in a light tomato sauce without the wine or any lemon, but sometimes she would make it this way–again without the wine but with lemon, pasta water, and always with a pinch of red pepper. Also, she never tossed out the olive oil that the tuna was packed in, but used it to sautee the onion and tuna. She used 2 cans so there was plenty for the dish. Not only does the tuna absorb the olive oil, but the oil in the can absorbs the flavor of the tuna. She never wasted anything! If there was any left in the can–out came the bread! She enjoyed her food, and yet she was the tiniest thing. This sounds like a nice variation with the addition of wine, but in my case dry vermouth–just a preference and what I use in my clam sauce. I never thought to use it in the tuna sauce!

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Pasta with Tuna and Capers in White Wine Sauce