Lemony Tuna Pasta With Breadcrumbs

April 14, 2023
1 Ratings
Photo by MJ Kroeger
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

This bulked-up version of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio borrows all of the classic flavors and techniques from the beloved pasta and throws in a few flavorful additions to make it a complete meal. For starters, a generous amount of lemon, in the form of both juice and zest, brightens up the pasta and adds a citrusy pep that helps cut through the olive oil. The brightness, which is reminiscent of shrimp scampi, creates the perfect foundation for big flakes of hearty canned tuna to enter the mix. The tuna (I like using an oil-packed variety here) brings an added dose of protein and transforms the pasta into a satisfying dinner that feels both hearty and luxe. To finish the pasta, a flurry of toasted panko breadcrumbs tossed in chopped parsley adds a freshness and crunch that livens it all up. It’s the aglio e olio you know and love, reimagined into a bright seafood pasta that comes together using nothing more than pantry staples and a few fresh additions.

Beyond being a cinch to make, this recipe is also the perfect rent-is-due-this-week meal. The ingredients are all budget-friendly staples that combine to create a satisfying dish. Assuming you have salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil on hand, the entire recipe should cost no more than ten dollars to make and generously feed four to six people. —Jesse Szewczyk

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped (about 1 large bunch), divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 large lemons, juiced and zested (about ½ cup juice and 1 tablespoon zest)
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti, or other long pasta shape
  • 3 (5-ounce) cans tuna (preferably stored in oil), drained and broken into large chunks
  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. While you wait for the water to boil, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the panko breadcrumbs and toast, stirring constantly, until they are deep golden brown and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the breadcrumbs into a medium heatproof bowl and add ¼ cup of the chopped parsley and ½ teaspoon of the kosher salt. Toss to distribute the parsley throughout the breadcrumbs and set them aside. Carefully wipe out the skillet with a paper towel to remove any leftover breadcrumbs.
  2. Heat the remaining olive oil in the now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is fragrant and starting to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and zest, bring to a simmer, and cook until the mixture is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside as you cook the pasta.
  3. Once the water has come to a boil, cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes for spaghetti (or follow the package instructions for the pasta of your choice). Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta into a colander and immediately add it to the pan of garlic and olive oil. Place the skillet back over medium heat and add the reserved pasta water. Cook, tossing the pasta constantly, until the pasta has absorbed all of the pasta water and looks glossy, about 1 to 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the tuna and remaining chopped parsley. Gently toss to distribute the tuna throughout the pasta. Taste the pasta and add additional salt if needed. Immediately serve the pasta with the toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled on top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • rox L
    rox L
  • Dawndusk
  • Halli

3 Reviews

rox L. May 8, 2023
Some lemon zest in the panko crumbs would brighten it up nicely
Dawndusk May 7, 2023
We add cold tuna to the pasta and forget about the garlic lemon mixture?
Halli May 8, 2023
That's what you do? (Or you missed "Drain the pasta into a colander and immediately add it to the pan of garlic and olive oil."?)