For this Spaghetti al Tonno pasta dish, it uses two jars of olive oil–packed tuna and a small amount of canned whole tomatoes, crushed by hand to produce small, supple pieces. Lots of garlic, some cooked in olive oil and the rest simply warmed through, contribute potent flavor to the tomato sauce, along with red pepper flakes for heat and anchovies for a briny backbone.
To ensure that the tuna stays moist and silky, stir it into slightly underdone spaghetti along with the tomato mixture off the heat and simply let it warm through. This not only gently warms the fish through so that it holds its moisture, but also hedges against mushy spaghetti.
Spaghetti or linguine are preferred for this dish (we used whole wheat pasta), but short or tubular shapes such as penne, fusilli, farfalle, ziti, or rigatoni also work. Likewise, oil-packed tuna is recommended, but if you happen to have water-packed tuna instead, don’t let that stop you. For a spicier dish, use the full ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
The tuna brand we buy is Tonnino. With rich flavor and silky, thick‑cut yellowfin fillets, it is a step above most brands. Yes, it costs a few extra dollars, but it yields pasta al tonno that’s posh enough for company, and can bring a luxurious touch to any weeknight meal. And aren’t you worth at least a few extra bucks?
*Now here’s the thing. If you are using the more expensive jarred tuna, why would you discard the oil it is packed in? Use that oil and add some EVOO if needed to make the 1/2 cup called for in the recipe.
Spaghetti al Tonno
- 2 5- to 7-oz. jars/cans olive oil-packed tuna, drained* (see head note)
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. table salt, divided, plus salt for cooking pasta
- ½ tsp. pepper, divided
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil*, divided, plus extra for drizzling
- 1½ Tbsp. minced garlic, divided
- 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
- ¼–½ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 14.5-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved, crushed by hand to small pieces
- 12 oz. spaghetti
- 6 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, divided
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. While water comes to boil, gently stir tuna, lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in small bowl.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon garlic, anchovies, and pepper flakes in saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until oil sizzles gently and anchovies break down, 1½ to 2 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes and their juice and ½ teaspoon salt. Increase heat to high and bring to strong simmer. Adjust heat to maintain gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 6 to 7 minutes. Cover and keep warm over low heat.
- Add spaghetti and 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water. Cook, stirring often, until barely al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water. Drain pasta and return it to pot.
- Off heat, add tomato mixture, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper, and remaining 1½ teaspoons garlic and toss until pasta is well coated. Add tuna mixture and toss gently. Cover and set aside for 3 minutes so flavors can meld and pasta can finish cooking.
- Adjust consistency of sauce with reserved cooking water as needed.
- Add ¼ cup parsley and remaining 2 tablespoons oil and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Distribute among pasta bowls. Drizzle each portion with extra oil, if using. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and serve.
Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated