16 February, 1985

Pasta & Tuna recipes

  • Pasta with Tuna and Olives
  • Shells with Tuna Sauce

"If you want to make a complete meal of this, add a green vegetable to the mix. You can prepare the recipe through step 2 several hours ahead of cooking and serving the pasta."  ~Martha Rose Shulman via The New York Times

Pasta with Tuna & Olives ingredients
Makes 4 servings
1 (6.5-oz) can water-packed light (not albacore) tuna, drained
1 to 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup fresh tomato sauce or a good prepared marinara sauce
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley or slivered fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup pitted imported black olives, such as kalamatas, cut in half or into quarters lengthwise
3/4-LB fusilli, penne, farfalle or spaghetti

Notes:  Fresh tomato sauce will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator, and it freezes well.

Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta. In a large pasta bowl, break up the tuna.

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan or saucepan over Medium heat, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, just until fragrant; remove from the heat and add to the tuna. Add the fresh herb (parsley or basil), and mix together.

Add the tomato sauce to the pan, heat through, and then add the red pepper flakes if using. Stir in the olives.

When the water for the pasta comes to a boil, add a generous Tbsp of salt and the pasta. Cook al dente (until firm to the bite) following package instructions, but checking the pasta a minute or two before the indicated time.

Remove 2 Tbsp of the cooking water, and mix with the tuna.

When the pasta is al dente, drain and transfer to the bowl with the tuna.

Add the tomato sauce with the olives; toss everything together, and serve. If using the Parmesan, pass it the table.

Many years ago, I clipped this Shells with Tuna Sauce recipe from a magazine, but I do not recall which one. Recently, I bought the book. Giuliano Bugialli writes about the following recipe, "This dish is a winter favorite all over Italy."

Shells with Tuna Sauce ingredients
(Chiocciole con salsa di Tonno)
Makes 4 first-course servings
Tuna Sauce (Salsa di Tonno)
1 small red onion, chopped fine (1/3 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 (14.5-oz) can tomatoes, well-drained (1 cup)
1 (3.5-oz) can tuna packed in olive oil, drained
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper

For serving
8-oz medium-size macaroni shells (chiocciole), freshly cooked and drained

Notes:  Giuliano says, "As with any sauce made with fish, do not add Parmigiano or other grated cheese." (page 74)

In a small saucepan, gently sauté onion in hot olive oil over Low heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, breaking-up with a fork; simmer until the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, put a large amount of water in a stockpot; add coarse salt and set it on the heat. When the sauce is almost ready, and the water in the stockpot has reached the boiling point, put the pasta in the boiling water. Stir with a wooden spoon and allow them to cook until al dente (about 12 minutes). Drain the pasta in a colander and place in a serving bowl.

Add the tuna and stir with a fork to break up chunks; mix well with the tomatoes. Taste for salt and pepper; adjust as desired. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes; the tuna should be well incorporated.

Pour sauce over the pasta; toss thoroughly to mix. Serve very hot, but do not add any grated cheese.

Adapts Giuliano BugialliThe Fine Art of Italian Cooking (New York: The New York Times Book Co, Inc, 1977), 74 - 75 and 160 - 161. 

Page Last Updated 1 April 2015


  1. Just ordered the 1st edition of Bugialli's cookbook. When it is delivered, will add missing page number(s) for the Shells and Tuna Sauce recipe.

    1. Great! I see you already added the book image; thanks for both.

    2. I added missing source info for Giuliano Bugialli's Shells with Tuna Sauce(Chiocciole con salsa di Tonno) recipe.