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Pasta with Tuna and Crispy Bread Crumbs

A pale blue bowl filled with farfalle, tuna, capers, tomatoes, and topped with bread crumbs and a slice of lemon, sitting on a red and white dish cloth.
Make the most of canned tuna with this easy tuna and pasta salad, filled with tomatoes, olives, garlic, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs.
America’s Test Kitchen

Prep 10 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 30 mins
6 servings
411 kcal


  • 1 pound farfalle
  • Table salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs*
  • 3 tablespoons capers rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest preferably organic
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (28 ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives chopped
  • 12 ounces good-quality olive oil–packed tuna drained
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges for serving


  • In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook according to package directions, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to the pot.
  • In a 12-inch (30-cm) nonstick skillet over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add panko and capers and cook, stirring frequently, until panko is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in lemon zest and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Dump the topping into a bowl.
  • Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Return the skillet to medium heat and warm the remaining tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in tomatoes and simmer until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir in olives and remove from heat.
  • Add sauce to the pasta and stir until pasta is well coated. Fold in tuna gently until combined but chunks still remain. Season with salt and pepper to taste and adjust consistency with reserved cooking water as needed.
  • Sprinkle with reserved panko mixture. Serve with lemon wedges.


*What is panko?

A lot of our recipes call for panko, rather than regular, old-school breadcrumbs. So, what's the difference? Texture, for the biggest part. Panko is Japanese, used in lots of Asian food (especially tempura) but, basically, it's still just breadcrumbs.
The difference is that it's made from just the interior of the bread--no crust, just the lightest, fluffiest part. Soft, white bread is processed into flakes, rather than tiny crumbs, which makes it larger and, well...flakier than breadcrumbs. Because of this, it fries up with a lighter texture. Panko is adored for its ability to make a crisp, crunchy coating or topping.