No-cook pasta sauce with tuna and cherry tomatoes

spaghetti with tuna, anchovy and fresh tomatoThis pasta is good for:

  • when there is no time to make dinner but you still want real food
  • the pantry is empty (or almost)
  • it’s Monday
  • before leaving for holidays
  • returning from holidays
  • unexpected informal dinner guests

This pasta has a sad version and a happy version. To make the happy version you must:

  • always have some bronze-drawn durum wheat pasta or fresh pasta and really good extra-virgin olive oil
  • use high quality tuna packed in oil, even better if it’s in olive oil

Neglecting all the above will result in the sad version. If it’s winter, keeping a bunch of cherry tomatoes in the freezer is a life saver. In the summer buy very ripe plum tomatoes.

  • one 200 gr (6 1/2 ounce) can imported Italian tuna in olive oil, drained and separated into chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 250 gr (1/2 lb) cherry or plum tomatoes, halved
  • 300 gr/ 10 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  •  salt


  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers preserved in salt, washed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves or fennel leaves
  • 1 fresh chili pepper

Using a shallow pan – a frying pan with high sides is ideal – saute the garlic in 2 tablespoon olive oil over very low heat. Do not brown the garlic, you only want to flavor the oil. Add the anchovy and tuna chunks and stir until just warm. Add olives and/or capers if using. Increase heat, add tomatoes and saute quickly until they are only warmed through. They should not cook and lose their shape. Add chili pepper – if using – and turn off the heat. The whole preparation should take no more than 5 min.
pasta sauce with tuna and fresh tomatoes
Meanwhile cook the pasta according to package instructions, or 1-2 min if using fresh pasta. The sauce is light and relatively dry, so it is suitable for spaghetti or short pasta shapes like the strozzapreti I used for the photo below. It does not work well with fettuccini or pappardelle.
When the pasta is cooked, turn the heat under the sauce pan to high. Drain and transfer to the sauce pan.  Stir the pasta quickly into the sauce as explained here. Add some pasta water – up to one tablespoon per person – and stir some more until the excess liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with fruity extra virgin olive oil. Serve on warm plates at once.
Serves 2-3

pasta with tuna
strozzapreti pasta with tuna, cherry tomatoes, olives


  1. I would gladly have this pasta any time. In fact, I do! You’re absolutely right, this kind of pantry pasta dish is a real life-saver!

  2. I can’t live without a plate of Pasta and when I see these recipes… fresh Pasta I fall in love with it. I’ve never did the strozzapreti before but it is a dish that I will do. Bring it on!

  3. Letizia,
    I found this recipe and your beautiful blog by searching for no-cook pasta sauces, and I am so glad I did! I had most of the ingredients for the sad version of this already at home, but I stopped at the store to get bronze drawn pasta (did not know about this before!) and oil-packed tuna. It was very happy indeed! This is sure to become a cherished regular recipe in my kitchen, and I am looking forward to trying many more of your wonderful looking recipes. Thank you so much!

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