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Pasta with Tuna, Tomato & Green Olives

Scott Phillips

Servings: 3-4

Keep a stock of canned tomatoes, canned tuna, and green olives around, and you can make this pasta at a moment’s notice. Don’t skip the fennel seed–it complements the tomatoes and tuna and pulls this sauce together. Adjust the garlic and red chile flakes to your taste, too, but be generous.


  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Generous pinch hot red chile flakes
  • 3 Tbs. finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cups very finely chopped canned tomatoes with their juices
  • 1 tsp. fennel seed, crushed in a mortar or spice grinder
  • 1 can (6 to 7 oz.) imported tuna packed in olive oil, well drained and very finely minced
  • 1/3 cup pitted and quartered green olives
  • (see “How to pit olives without frustration”)
  • Salt
  • 3/4 lb. dried penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, or perciatelli

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size per 1/4 cup
  • Calories (kcal) : 540
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 190
  • Fat (g): 21
  • Saturated Fat (g): 3
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13
  • Cholesterol (mg): 10
  • Sodium (mg): 800
  • Carbohydrates (g): 64
  • Fiber (g): 4
  • Protein (g): 24


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Heat 3 Tbs. of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over moderate heat. Add the garlic, chile flakes, and 2 Tbs. of the parsley and sauté briefly to release the fragrance of the seasonings. Add the tomatoes and fennel seed. Bring to a simmer, adjust the heat to maintain the simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and well blended, about 10 min.
  • Stir in the minced tuna and then the olives. Season with salt and remove from the heat while you cook the pasta.
  • Cook the pasta in rapidly boiling water. When the pasta is a few minutes away from being finished, return the tomato sauce to moderate heat and add enough of the hot pasta water — about 2/3 cup — to thin the sauce to a nice consistency. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.
  • When the pasta is about 1 min. shy of al dente, scoop out and set aside 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the hot pot and stir in the sauce. Cook together over moderately low heat for about 1 min., stirring and adding some of the reserved pasta water if needed to thin the sauce. Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Serve the pasta immediately in warm bowls, garnishing each portion with a little of the remaining parsley.


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Reviews (7 reviews)

  • Lisasherm | 12/14/2020

    Delish! Came out perfectly!

  • framerchick | 06/14/2014

    Yummy.The next time I will not use so much pasta. I also think this would make a GREAT tapenade on a crostini with a garlic/lemon aioli.

  • twood | 06/10/2013

    This dish is so simple, but yet packed with flavor. When fresh green beans are in season, I add them to the pasta while cooking and then toss everything together... delicious!

  • Choclit | 02/24/2010

    Great recipe! I had a hard time finding tuna in olive oil locally. For the future I have order online Albacore tuna packed in olive oil from a small fishery since this is supposed to be the type of tuna with the highest amount of Omega-3.

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