Pasta al Tonno

February 11, 2019
5 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 3-4
Author Notes

I tweaked this classic Italian recipe to make it a little saucier and bawdier—like it got relationship advice from its lusty cousin, Pasta Puttanesca. To deepen the flavor of meaty canned tuna, the recipe has you melt anchovies and garlic slivers into the olive oil. It also heats things up with a hearty pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes. A windowsill herb garden isn't strictly located in the pantry, but keeping a live basil plant in a sunny spot can make this recipe particularly accessible and stress-free. I like to use a chunky pasta shape with some bounce to it and lots of crevices to carry sauce, like fusilli or rigatoni. —Suzanne Miller

What You'll Need
  • 16 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 3-4 large cloves of garlic, sliced paper-thin along the grain
  • 3-4 canned anchovy filets
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoons Aleppo pepper flakes (depending on your heat tolerance)
  • 2 sprigs of basil, stems and leaves separated
  • 1 can of yellowfin tuna (7 oz.) packed in olive oil
  • 12 ounces chunky, bouncy pasta, such as fusilli, rigatoni or casarecce
  • Salt
  1. Fill a large pot with 5 quarts of water and bring it to a boil over high heat. While it heats, halve the cherry tomatoes and set aside. I like to use a steak knife or other small serrated blade for speed.
  2. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta along with a good handful of salt (about 3 tablespoons to you sticklers for measurement). Set a timer for 1 minute less than the minimum time the package says to cook it.
  3. Place the olive oil, garlic and anchovies to a cold 12-inch skillet or 3 quart sauté pan. Turn the heat to medium, stirring occasionally to break up the anchovies and prevent the garlic from scorching. When the anchovies have mostly dematerialized (your timer should read about 5-6 minutes left), add the halved tomatoes and basil stems (save the leaves for later). Stand back for a good 15 seconds to avoid the popping oil spatter. Stir-fry the tomatoes until they soften and release their juices. Add the Aleppo pepper, and then flake the tuna into the pan along with the can juices and oil.
  4. Fish the pasta out of the pot with a spider or a slotted spoon into the skillet (or drain into a colander, saving half a cup of pasta cooking water). Add half a cup of pasta cooking water to the skillet, and simmer for a minute, until the pasta glistens and the sauce takes on a velvety texture. Fish out the basil stems and discard. Rip up the basil leaves and sprinkle over the pasta. Taste, and add salt if necessary (probably not).
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1 Review

caswat2016 June 24, 2023
Loved this quick recipe, helped me use up some farmers market cherry tomatoes and basil as well as a half bag of pasta I had extra from another recipe. Made a quick and delicious hot Saturday lunch!