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

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

Tuna and Tomato Spaghetti

4.70 / 13 votes
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.
David Leite
Servings2 to 3 servings
Calories775 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped or pureed canned tomatoes
  • One can tuna, preferably oil-packed
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Optional Additions

  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped olives
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • Pinch red pepper flakes


  • 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.

Adapted From

Good and Cheap

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 775 kcalCarbohydrates: 107 gProtein: 44 gFat: 19 gSaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gCholesterol: 59 mgSodium: 993 mgFiber: 7 gSugar: 10 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2015 Leanne Brown. Photo © 2015 Leanne Brown and Dan Lazin. All rights reserved.

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.

I have made a similar dish in the past myself by making up a recipe and it’s a good dish to use up store-cupboard ingredients. It was a biggish meal for 2 and could have done 3.

I liked the suggested possible additions. I added umami-spiced tomato puree (which contained garlic, anchovy, olive, balsamic, porcini and parmesan) and panko bread crumbs. I did not really detect the crunch from the panko breadcrumbs, but I like the idea of adding breadcrumbs. The quantities were good and I would use these quantities again.

This is a very similar recipe I grew up with, called puttanesca. It’s a great simple and fast recipe for weeknights that will give you good nutrients and kids and adults alike love it.

Hands-on time this recipe does not take longer than 15 minutes. I love adding green olives or even capers to it. Also make sure to use tuna in olive oil and use its olive oil to saute the garlic.

This is a wonderful pantry dish to have in your arsenal. I used a good-quality imported tuna in olive oil, which I recommend doing. Your dish is only going to be as good as the ingredients you use.

I did add anchovies which I had chopped finely, sliced Kalamata olives, and capers. After tasting, I felt that it needed a tiny bit of a lift, and added some red pepper flakes. The flavors exploded. Delicious!

The tuna fan in the house says this is tasty, but need both herbs and a spice to give it flavor and a kick. We have tuna in water cans at home, and used those, so there was not a strong tuna flavor. This is good or bad, depending on how much you like tuna. It came together in 15 minutes…which is a big plus for a weeknight meal.

A fast weeknight dinner that you can make with pantry ingredients is a great tool in your kitchen survival kit. This recipe took some basic things I have done (like smoked salmon or tuna and chevre tossed with bowties, or penne) up a notch. The tomato and tuna was not something I had thought to do, much as I loved how they played off each other. The simple list of additional ingredients reminded me of a tuna tomato antipasto a friend makes for the holidays, and if you added some heat (pepperoncini maybe) you would be close to the traditional flavours of a calabrese antipasto.

But this all happens in the time it takes to cook the pasta!! I added capers, and used Parmesan as that was on hand. If I add anchovies for a future batch, I would not add anything else salty. I used very nice albacore packed in olive oil, and used the olive oil from the can to start the sauce, opting for the most flavor, and it worked well.

One thing I did differently from this recipe was to reduce the amount of pasta to more modern habits—using 2 oz (56g) per person was more in line with our carbohydrate-conscious world. That isn’t to say I would not have enjoyed more—I just try to not be tempted. We also used linguine because we prefer the mouthfeel to spaghetti.

What I might suggest is a combination of pasta and vegetable noodles (zucchini noodles are the obvious choice).

This was healthy, fast and delicious!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Spaghetti Carbonara

This spaghetti carbonara recipe tosses pasta with eggs, cheese, guanciale, pancetta or bacon, and pepper to form a creamy sauce. Quick and easy.

25 mins

Pasta with Butter and Parmesan

Whether you’re five or fifty-five, sometimes nothing is more satiating than a plate of spaghetti with butter and cheese.

20 mins

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Yes. Soft, pillowy gnocchi bathed in a luxurious blue cheese sauce can be on your table in under 30 minutes. Wonders never cease.

25 mins

4.70 from 13 votes (11 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Very yummy! A recipe my childhood friend’s mom would make on Fridays. Good memory.
    I added two anchovies when cooking garlic. At the end, I added a 1/2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice.