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Tuna Pasta with Olive Oil and Garlic

4.72 from 70 votes

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Make this simple tuna pasta recipe for dinner tonight! It’s an easy pantry dish you can whip up without having to go to the store. With tasty canned tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, linguine (or spaghetti), and a spicy garlic and olive oil sauce, it’s easy and incredibly delicious. An Italian-style “aglio e olio” pasta, it’s ready in 25 minutes or less.

Image of a white bowl holding a serving of tuna pasta with garlic olive oil sauce, with parsley on top.

You know when you walk in the door after a long day — so tired and also very, very hungry?

Maybe you just order takeout and move on, because chances are the only things in the fridge are shriveled limes and moldy cheese.

Times like that call for one of our all-time favorite Mediterranean diet recipes, with ingredients coming straight out of a well stocked pantry.

That’s when this easy tuna pasta recipe will feel like a lifesaver!

The whole point of having a well-stocked pantry is to be prepared for those days when you can’t get to the store to buy ingredients.

It’s definitely not fun to overthink dinner in order to make something on the fly  — the whole point is to nourish yourself deliciously, and the sooner the better.

Pantry Tuna Pasta with Garlic Olive Oil

I grew up in an Italian-American family, and my mother made a version of tuna pasta for us almost weekly when I was growing up. I’ve always loved it.

She kept it much simpler by using solid white canned tuna, some chopped garlic and red pepper flakes, and served it with linguine or spaghetti with chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

But it always had lots of olive oil and slivers of toasted garlic in it — so savory and delicious! It’s been one of my favorite easy pasta recipes for my whole life, right next to her classic Italian meatballs!

Is canned tuna healthy?

Canned tuna is packed with protein, as well as other nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and vitamin D.

My mom showed that it’s easy to make a tasty tuna pasta with canned tuna, and the family will devour it. But once I tasted oil-packed tuna in jars, I often use it that instead of canned tuna.

The difference between canned albacore tuna and tuna preserved in glass jars is that the latter retains a firm, flaky texture. You’ll notice it’s also less dry, and flakes into nice large pieces.

Unlike canned tuna, which can turn out mushy depending on the brand and how it’s processed.

Image of a white bowl and a fork serving tuna with pasta and olive oil sauce, with parsley on top.

In southern Italy, tuna preserved in oil, tonno sott’olio, is a prized food to make and keep.

What kind of tuna is good with pasta?

Jarred tuna is definitely a bit pricier by a few dollars, but I think the extra bucks are totally worth it. After all, we’re making dinner here!

Close up photo of a bowl of canned tuna chunks in a bowl, surrounded by tomatoes, parsley and garlic.

My favorite brands to have on hand are Italian and Spanish jarred tunas, available at many grocery stores and online.

If you opt to use canned tuna or tuna packaged in pouches, look for yellowfin tuna packed in olive oil. This type of tuna will give you the best flavor and quality.

I find that one jar and a pound of pasta feeds a small family very nicely and elegantly.

It might seem counterintuitive, but I don’t use the oil the tuna is packed in for a few reasons:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil is my oil of choice for cooking, and as precious as these jars are, the oil the fish is packed in is probably not extra-virgin but more likely a lighter oil.
  • The oil can taste diluted or watered down after its processed — not what you want in your finished dish.

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Olive Oil and Garlic Tuna Pasta

Karen Tedesco
Make this easy 25-minutes tuna pasta recipe for dinner! Use canned tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, linguine or spaghetti and olive oil.
Print Pin Text
4.72 from 70 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 can or 6 ounce jar oil-preserved tuna
  • Sea salt
  • cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • ½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or Aleppo pepper
  • ½ cup dry-packed sundried tomatoes, cut into slivers (soak in hot water for 10 minutes if they're very dry)
  • 1 pound linguine or spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Handful chopped Italian parsley


  • Lift the tuna from the jar with a fork, leaving the oil in the jar. Put the tuna into a small bowl and break into smaller pieces with the fork — don't shred too much as large chunks have a nice texture.
  • Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil, adding 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of water.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium low heat for a minute. Toss in the garlic, chili and tomatoes and cook just until the garlic starts to sizzle. Remove from the heat and stir in the tuna and ¼ teaspoon salt.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve ¼ – ½ cup of pasta water before draining. Immediately add the pasta to the skillet along with the butter. Use tongs or two large forks to toss the pasta with the sauce, adding a bit of water to loosen the sauce (you might not need all the water).
  • Sprinkle the herbs over the pasta, then taste and add more salt or chili if you like. Serve hot.


  • For more flavor toss the pasta with 1-2 tablespoons capers, chopped olives or sliced canned artichoke hearts.
  • The pasta will keep up to 3 days, refrigerated. It the pasta has absorbed the sauce, reheat with a little bit more olive oil along with 1-2 tablespoons water or broth.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 622kcal | Carbohydrates: 93g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 54mg | Potassium: 734mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 194IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 3mg
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Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about making cooking fun and doable, with easy to follow tested recipes and incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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  1. 5 stars
    Delicious! I’ve made this several times according to recipe and using some variations. Love it!

  2. Christine Richardson says:

    5 stars
    This was delicious, quick, and easy. So many variations possible. I didn’t measure a thing and it still came out great! The sundried tomatoes and garlic are a nice contrast to the tuna and pasta. And plenty of olive oil pulls our all together. Yum 🙂

  3. Needs way more tuna. After eating one helping, I added another whole can. Better.

    Also, it was pretty dry even using 1/2 cup of pasta water.

  4. Amelia Anthony says:

    This was so delicious. I used fresh tomato instead, and topped with lots more chili flakes and Parmesan cheese (didn’t have parsley!)

  5. 5 stars
    Delicious and easy. A pantry supper for us on a Sunday evening. Recipe does not mention serving with grated Parmesan. The dish is rich in umami flavors, so we opted for no cheese.

  6. Soo easy and so yummy! Made this using pantry ingredients while social distancing. We didn’t have very many Sun-dried tomato’s, so we added capers and it was delicious. Will definitely be making again!