Tuna and Tomato Spaghetti

This tuna and tomato spaghetti is an easy, inexpensive meal that comes together from pasta, canned tuna and tomatoes, and Romano cheese. Done in just 30 minutes and requires only a handful of pantry ingredients.

A tangle of tomato and tuna spaghetti on a white plate.

We’re quite fond of the title of the book in which we found this tuna tomato pasta recipe. It’s Good and Cheap. As it implies, this recipe won’t set you back and in fact can probably be made entirely from staples that you already have on hand. We don’t need to remind you of the benefit of that.–Angie Zoobkoff

Tuna and Tomato Spaghetti

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 2 to 3
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  • Optional Additions


Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Tester tip: If you’re using high-quality oil-packed tuna here, swap the tuna oil for olive oil when sautéing the garlic. It’ll give you a more pronounced tuna flavor and involves less waste.

Add the tomatoes and tilt the saucepan to swirl the ingredients together. Let the sauce cook for 2 minutes and then add the tuna. Use a wooden spoon to break up the tuna and continue to cook until it’s warmed through, about 3 minutes more.

Add 1/4 cup grated Romano, if using, reserving the rest to sprinkle on top. Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed.

Stir in any of the optional additions, if using.

Reduce the heat to low and cover to keep the sauce warm while you finish boiling the spaghetti.

Drain the spaghetti, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the spaghetti to the sauce and toss everything together. If the sauce isn’t sliding and coating the noodles, add a little of the reserved pasta water and try tossing it again.

Divvy the pasta among bowls and, if desired, sprinkle with the remaining Romano.

Print RecipeBuy the Good and Cheap cookbook

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Spaghetti with tomatoes and tuna is one of my longtime busy-day dinners. It’s comforting, quick but still homemade, and delicious. My taster, who had never heard of it and doesn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen, liked the dish and said he would make it—I’d say this recipe is a winner. It’s so “perfectly between” tuna salad sandwich (more of a lunch item, no?) and tuna noodle casserole (love it, but don’t always have time for the baking part).

This was the first time I made it from a recipe, and this one is spot on in terms of the flavor and the flexibility with the ingredients. I only had canned tuna in water in my pantry, so I went ahead and used it for this recipe (didn’t bother draining it), and it worked just fine. After all, this is exactly the kind of thing you want to be able to make without a special trip to the market.

Cheese was a new addition for me, so I took caution and decided to serve it on the side. My taster put some on his and liked it, but I enjoyed mine without the cheese. Personally I feel the strong flavor and aroma of the Italian hard cheese overpowers the tuna. I have used all of the suggested additions in the past; you can sauté any of them with the garlic or add them to the sauce when the tuna goes in. Again, flexibility is the key here—no need to be fussy.

Total time was about 12 minutes—basically, the time it took for the water to come to a boil and the pasta to cook—mine took 8 minutes—everything else can be prepared during that time.

I loved the garlic-y sauce, but I would be happy with using just 2 cloves.

This simple, unassuming recipe came together quickly with just a few pantry items. Timewise, it was about 10 minutes which included making the sauce while the pasta cooked. I thought the tuna would be overpowering but it blended in nicely with the tomato sauce.

I would make this again with the following changes: we thought the chopped tomatoes and tuna balanced each other out in texture, so I would use pureed tomatoes and add the drained tuna (adding the tuna oil to the sauce first) after the pasta was added to the sauce. Cooking it ahead broke down the flakes too much for our taste.

I did add black olives and bread crumbs for salt and a little crunch. Both were nice but we felt the sauce needed more salt so I would add capers. Overall, it was a nice change from our usual pasta dish.


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