Pasta With Tuna and Tomato Sauce

Pasta With Tuna and Tomato Sauce
Pasta with tuna and tomato sauce. (Giulia Scarpaleggia)
This is one of my mum’s classic Sunday sauces, something I prepare now as a weekly meal, as it covers all my nutritional bases in one dish.
The ingredients are cheap and basic, but comforting, and likely already in your pantry: your favorite pasta (I like short shapes with a hole to collect the sauce, like penne or tortiglioni, sometimes whole wheat), a can of tomato purée (or chopped or crushed tomatoes, or even whole peeled tomatoes crushed with your hands), a can of good-quality tuna, a white onion, the heat of red pepper flakes, and of course, extra virgin olive oil and salt.
Another advantage of this recipe is that you can make the tuna sauce as the pasta is cooking, qualifying this dish as a quick weeknight meal. You can easily double the recipe to have leftovers for lunch the next day.
If you have a few pots of fresh herbs on your windowsill, you can add fresh basil or parsley to the sauce just before serving.
Serves 4
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 (5-ounce) can good quality tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), well-drained
  • 1 2/3 cups (half of a 28-ounce can) tomato purée (see recipe headnote)
  • 3/4 pound dried pasta
Add the thinly sliced onion, olive oil, some red pepper flakes to taste, and a good pinch of salt to a small pot. The salt will extract moisture from the onions and help you cook them without burning them. Cook the onions over low heat until soft and translucent, for about 5–8 minutes.
Break down the canned tuna into chunks with a fork and add it to the onions. Cook the tuna with the onions for a couple of minutes, stirring often, then add the tomato purée. Stir well, season with salt, then cook on the lowest heat until thick and glossy, about 10 minutes. 
While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the pasta. Stir and cook following the suggested time on the package until al dente.
Drain the pasta and dress it with the tuna sauce. Toss thoroughly and serve immediately.
Giulia Scarpaleggia is a Tuscan-born and bred food writer, food photographer, and author of five cookbooks, including “From the Markets of Tuscany.” She is currently working on her sixth cookbook. Find her online at her blog,