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Tuna Pesto Pasta FI

Tuna Pesto Pasta

  • Author: Kate
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 3 - 4 servings 1x
  • Category: main course
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: American


This is an easy main course that's hearty and filling but not too heavy, perfect for a weeknight dinner. Chunks of tuna, tomatoes, garlic, onion and pesto add tons of flavor to this pasta dish! Best part - you can sit down to this satisfying dinner in under 30 minutes!


  • 8 ounces short pasta (campanelle, cavatappi, fusilli, etc.)
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • one 7 ounce can tuna packed in oil, undrained (see notes 1 - 2)
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce (store-bought or homemade)
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


Prep the ingredients:

  1. Set a large pot of water to boil on the stove. While the pasta water is coming to a boil (and while the pasta is cooking), continue with the remaining steps. (See notes 3 - 4.)
  2. Prep the veggies: dice the onion, finely chop the garlic, and cut the grape tomatoes in half, set aside.
  3. If needed, finely shred the Parmesan cheese, set aside.

Make the tuna pesto sauce:

  1. Heat the 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the diced onion and sauté for 3 - 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion softens and begins to brown slightly.
  2. Add the finely chopped garlic and crushed red pepper flakes (if using) to the onions, stir and continue to cook for 1 minute, or until the garlic is fragrant (avoid getting too much color on the garlic; turn down the heat if necessary).
  3. Add the halved grape tomatoes and undrained tuna to the pan, stir gently to combine. Break up the larger chunks of tuna with the side of your spoon. Cook for 1 - 2 minutes, just to gently warm up the tuna and tomatoes.
  4. Turn the heat down to low, stir the pesto sauce into the tuna and tomato mixture. If the pasta has not finished cooking yet, turn the heat off but keep the pan on the stove.

Cook the pasta and assemble the dish:

  1. When the pasta water begins to boil, add a generous pinch of salt and stir in the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  2. Drain the pasta but reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  3. Add the drained pasta to the pan with the tuna pesto mixture. Gently stir to combine the pasta with the sauce. Stir in the finely shredded Parmesan. Taste the pasta and add a sprinkle of salt, black pepper, or crushed red pepper flakes if needed. If the pasta needs more moisture, mix in a splash or two of the reserved pasta water.
  4. Garnish the pasta with additional red pepper flakes and Parmesan and serve.


  1.   You can substitute tuna packed in water for the tuna packed in oil if you prefer. Just drain about half of the liquid from the can before adding it to the pan, and add in an additional 2 teaspoons of olive oil at the same time. 
  2.   Tuna that comes in larger pieces provides a nice texture to this dish. Solid white albacore and solid light yellowfin are good options.
  3.   Although the recipe includes the directions for making the tuna pesto sauce before the directions for cooking the pasta, you don't need to wait for the entire sauce to be finished before starting to boil the pasta.
  4.   To finish the pasta and sauce around the same time, check how long your pasta needs to cook and time accordingly; for pastas that take 8 - 10 minutes, starting it around when you are sautéing the onions worked well for me. If needed, you can always start the pasta cooking a little later in the process, since the sauce will keep just fine on the stove while the pasta finishes cooking.

Keywords: tuna pesto pasta, tuna pasta