Tuna pesto pasta is an easy and surprisingly delicious dinner made from pesto, pasta, garlic & canned tuna in olive oil.
If you like tuna, then you simply must try this easy and delicious recipe for tuna pesto pasta.
Honestly, I can't decide which I like better, this recipe or my recipe for Tuna and Orzo Pasta Salad. What makes this recipe different is pesto!
What Makes This Recipe An Easy Dinner?
- Just 5 ingredients
- Four of the ingredients are easy to keep in the pantry (pasta, canned tuna, olive oil, garlic) plus 1 ingredient (pesto) that can be homemade or store-bought.
- Even if you make your own pesto, this one-pot dinner can be on the table in 30 minutes.
- This pasta is delicious served warm or cold, which gives you the option of making it ahead of time
This recipe is made with just 5 ingredients:
What is Canned Tuna in Olive Oil?
Canned tuna is sold either packed in water or oil. For this recipe, look for tuna packed in olive oil (not canola). It has more flavor and is less dry than tuna packed in water.
Cooks Illustrated wrote an article about The Best Tuna Packed in Oil. They recommend more expensive brands of tuna, which you can use if you like.
But you can also use regular olive oil-packed tuna found at any grocery store. When I make this recipe, I buy Trader Joe's Solid Light Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil.
What Type of Pesto Should I Use?
You can use your favorite store-bought pesto, or make a batch at home. Three good recipes to try at home are:
- First, cook pasta in salted water.
- Before draining the pasta, scoop out 1 cup of starchy pasta water and set it aside.
- In a saucepan, saute garlic and olive oil.
- Add 2 cans of canned tuna packed in olive oil.
- In a serving bowl, toss together pesto and pasta. Drizzle in the starchy pasta water to help thin out the pesto and coat the noodles.
- Stir in the tuna
- Top with grated parmesan, if desired
- Serve warm or at room temperature
Add More Flavor
Boost the flavor of this meal by adding one or more ingredients right before serving:
- Kalamata olives
- Arugula (especially good when the pasta is served cold)
- Red pepper flakes
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Tips for Making Tuna Pasta with Pesto
I prefer olive oil packed tuna because it has more flavor, but in a pinch you can use canned tuna in water. Drain it well and mix the tuna with olive oil and salt before adding it to the pasta.
I prefer longer noodles, like spaghetti or fettuccine, but you can use any type of pasta shape you like with this recipe.
Don't worry! It can be hard to blend pesto evenly into pasta. One method that helps is thinning out the pesto with starchy pasta water. This recipe asks you to set aside 1 cup of pasta water before you drain the noodles. This water contains starch from the pasta, and starch helps sauce stick to noodles.
I don't always need the entire 1 cup of pasta water, but drizzling in some as I toss the pesto and pasta helps the pesto blend in.
This recipe calls for 12 ounces of pasta (¾ of a package). Why? Because you'll end up with a balanced amount of pasta, tuna and pesto in the dish.
If you use a full pound of pasta, you might need to add another can of tuna and more pesto.
If you use only 8 ounces of pasta, that's fine. The dish will definitely have enough tuna and pesto.
More Pasta RecipesPrint
Tuna Pesto Pasta
Tuna pesto pasta is an easy and surprisingly delicious dinner made from pesto, pasta, garlic and canned tuna in olive oil. This is a really fast, delicious dinner (and it's also good cold the next day).
- Prep Time: 5
- Cook Time: 15
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: pasta
- Method: saute
- Cuisine: Italian American
- 12 ounces spaghetti, linguine or your favorite pasta shape
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 10 to 12 ounces canned tuna packed in olive oil (2 cans)
- 1 to 2 cups pesto (depending on how much you like pesto)
- Salt, to taste
- Parmesan, grated on top of the pasta
- Use store-bought pesto, or make a batch of pesto (try my Almond Basil Pesto)
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta. Cook until al dente, according to package instructions.
- Before draining the pasta, scoop out 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside.
- Drain the pasta in a colander (don’t rinse).
- While the pasta boils, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide skillet or saucepan.
- Add garlic, cook 30 seconds.
- Add the entire cans of tuna, including oil (careful, it will splatter). Break up the tuna & saute it just until it’s heated, then turn off the heat.
- In a large serving bowl, combine the pesto and pasta. Toss with tongs as you drizzle in the starchy pasta water, which will help thin out the pesto and coat the noodles. You probably won't need to use the entire 1 cup of reserved pasta water.
- Add the tuna. Toss well.
- Add salt to taste before serving. Top with grated parmesan if desired.
This tuna pasta is delicious served hot, or at room temperature, or cold. I really like leftovers cold for lunch the next day.
Although it depends on the saltiness of the pesto, expect that you'll need to add salt and maybe a squeeze of lemon to make the finished pasta more flavorful.
Keywords: pesto pasta, tuna pesto pasta, tuna pasta, pesto, canned tuna