A quick and simple tuna pasta dish that you can make in 20 minutes from start to finish! Discover the delicious pairing of tuna and tomatoes, as their flavors come together in perfect harmony.

Canned tuna cooked with tomatoes, olive oil and pasta

Tuna Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes

Here’s why you’ll love this tuna recipe:

  • A great time saver with minimal preparation! It’s one of the quickest meals you can make. Perfect for a busy weeknight.
  • Made of simple and budget-friendly ingredients that you probably have in your pantry.
  • A delicious combination of flavors–this simple yet satisfying recipe brings together the tangy sweetness of ripe tomatoes and the savory goodness of canned tuna.
Canned tuna cooked with tomatoes, olive oil and pasta

What you need

Here are the ingredients you need to make tuna with fresh tomatoes:

Canned Tuna

The best-canned tuna for this pasta recipe is tuna in oil, preferably olive oil. It’s tastier, the texture is better (not dry), and overall just better than tuna in water or brine.


I recommend using spaghetti, angel hair, fettuccine, and linguine for a quicker cooking time. Penne, bowtie, fusilli, and ziti pasta works too but will take a bit more time to cook.

Tuna Sauce Ingredients

Here’s what you need to make the simple tuna sauce:

  • Tomatoes – Opt for the freshness of ripe tomatoes instead of canned ones to avoid overpowering the flavor of the tuna. Choose plump tomatoes or cherry tomatoes alternatively.
  • Garlic – This is an important ingredient when cooking anything with fish or seafood. It’s fragrant and nutty and brings out the best flavors of any seafood dish.
  • Olive Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil– Don’t skimp on olive oil when making this Agli olio kind of pasta recipe. It’s the key to making the pasta glossy and extra delicious!
  • Spring onions (scallions) – Can be substituted with fresh parsley or fresh basil if preferred.
  • Lemon Juice – Another secret ingredient to masking the fishy taste of tuna. Also, the acid makes the sauce less greasy tasting.
  • Red Pepper Flakes – Sprinkle chili flakes for some extra heat to the tuna pasta sauce. Omit if preferred.

How to Make the Tuna Sauce

And here’s how I make tuna Pasta with fresh tomatoes

Cooking process Tuna Pasta

Cooking tips:

  • Use a medium-sized skillet to make it easier to toss the sauce and pasta.
  • Heat the olive oil until just warm. Do not use hot oil as it can easily burn the garlic.
  • Cook the garlic until fragrant. You’ll know it’s cooked just right when you start smelling that familiar garlicky aroma.
  • Taste the sauce BEFORE adding the pasta. Add salt or more red pepper flakes based on your preference.
  • Cook the pasta al dente. To test the doneness, take a strand of pasta from the cooking pot 1 to 2 minutes before the specified cooking time. If it’s cooked but still firm, then it’s ready.

Make It in 20 Minutes!

Tuna pasta in a pan.

1. Preparation

Start by boiling the water for pasta. While waiting, prepare the ingredients–slice the tomatoes, garlic, and green onions. Don’t cook the tuna sauce yet.

2. Cook the Pasta

When the water starts boiling, stir in the salt then add the pasta. Take note of the cooking time on the package and the directions. The average is around 8 to 10 minutes and 10 to 12 minutes for thicker pasta like penne. Reserve the pasta water, about 1 cup to be added to the sauce later.

3. Cook the Fresh Tomatoes and Tuna

Start cooking the tuna when the pasta is halfway done. Start by sauteing the garlic and tomatoes until fragrant and juices start to come out. By the time the sauce is ready, the pasta should be ready too. Set the heat low while draining the pasta so the sauce doesn’t evaporate quickly.

4. Add the Pasta to the Sauce

Immediately drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Don’t turn off the heat just yet. Add the reserved pasta water. Starchy water helps the pasta cling to the sauce by emulsifying it with the oil.

Bonus Tip: I usually just use a set of tongs to pick up long pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine. For short pasta, I drain with a colander or mesh strainer.

5. Toss and Cook

Once everything is in the pan, adjust the heat to medium heat. Simmer while tossing and stirring the pasta and the tuna sauce together. Sprinkle some lemon juice to finish.

Tuna pasta with olive oil and tomatoes

Variations and Add-ins

Here are some other ingredients you can add:

  • Black Olives or Kalamata olives
  • Capers
  • Red and Green Bell Peppers
  • Parsely, Basil, or Cilantro.
  • Chopped red chilies if you want to make the sauce extra spicy.
  • Anchovies

If using tuna in water or brine

Although tuna in water or brine tend to be on the dry side, you can still use it to make this tuna pasta recipe. To make up for the flavor, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of oyster sauce and add more olive oil.

More pasta recipes

Canned tuna cooked with tomatoes, olive oil and pasta

Tuna Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes

Rate this recipe
Elevate the flavor of canned tuna with fresh tomatoes and garlic. Opt for juicy plump tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, as they won't overpower the tuna as canned tomatoes often do.
Servings3 servings
preparation time5 minutes
Total cooking time20 minutes


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 12.5 oz cherry tomatoes or 1 large plump tomatoes (sliced, note 1)
  • 2 stalks onion leaves/scallion (divided)
  • 2 cans 5 oz each tuna in oil (note 2)
  • ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • lemon juice (to taste)
  • salt (to taste)
  • 2-3 tbsp pasta water (add more if needed)
  • 7 oz spaghetti (note 3)

Garnish (optional)

  • grated parmesan
  • parsley (chopped)


  • Cook pasta in boiling salted water just until tender (al dente). Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  • Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add cherry tomatoes and garlic. Cook until fragrant and softened. Add half of the spring onions and cook for another minute.
  • Add tuna along with its oil. Sprinkle salt and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle some lemon juice.
  • Add the cooked pasta and a splash of pasta water, about 1 to 2 tablespoons. Toss and stir well with a tong to combine. Add more pasta water if needed.
  • Remove from heat and sprinkle more spring onions. Serve immediately. Garnish with parmesan cheese if preferred.

Recipe Notes & Tips:

  1. Cherry Tomatoes – you can also use 1 to 2 plump tomatoes.
  2. Tuna in Oil – Tuna in olive oil or sunflower oil works great.
  3. Pasta – fettuccine, linguine, penne, and even bow pasta work great for this recipe.
  4. Other recommended add-ins: black olives, capers, red and green bell pepper, and green peas. Use fresh or dried parsley, basil, or cilantro instead of spring onions.
Author : Mella
Course : Main Course
Cuisine : Western
Keyword : canned sardines recipe
Nutrition Facts
Tuna Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?I love hearing how you went with my recipes! Tag @rivertenkitchen or leave a comment below!

Originally published July 2015. Updated with new photos and improved recipe.

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