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Pasta with Tuna and Olives

Pasta with Tuna and Olives is a fast and easy Pasta recipe that is perfect anytime. A 15 minute homemade tomato sauce filled with olives and tuna, can’t get much better than that!

tuna and olive pasta in a black pan

That time of year has arrived in Italy, yup Olive picking time! I have to admit it is something that I don’t mind doing, it’s relatively clean (none of that sticky grape juice running down your arms during grape season).

And it’s Fall. My favourite time of the year. This year looks to be a pretty good year for the olives and olive oil.

Last year in our part of the country not so much, too much rain in August unfortunately produced a parasite that attacked the trees and therefore the olive trees produced little to no olives.

So with that in mind I dedicate this delicious Tuna and Olive Pasta dish to fall in Italy.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Salt
  • Hot pepper flakes
  • Tomatoes – canned Marzano or Roma nothing added
  • Water
  • Tuna
  • Olive – black or green your choice we prefer black
  • Pasta – short ridged pasta is the preferred type of pasta

What is the best pasta to use

Rigatoni or Penne are the perfect pasta to use in this recipe because they are nice and big and scoop up all this amazing sauce which is full of tuna and olives.

Any left over sauce can easily be wiped with a crusty piece of Italian bread or as the Italians say “fare la scarpetta”.

How to make Pasta with Tuna and Olives

  • In a large pan add the olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, spices and water.
  • Simmer over medium heat uncovered, stirring occasionally for approximately 15-20 minutes or until thickened.
adding the sauce to the black pan to make tuna olive pasta

  • Then lower the heat and add the tuna, stir to combine and simmer for about a minute.
  • Add the olives, stirring to combine, again simmer for a minute.
tuna and olive pasta sauce is ready in a black pan
  • Add the cooked pasta and half a ladle of pasta water tossing to combine on high heat until almost creamy.
  • Serve immediately.
tuna and olive pasta in a black pan

How to cook pasta

Always cook the pasta in enough water, you will need 4 cups (1 litre) for 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) of pasta. Be sure to choose the correct size pot, you don’t want the water to reach the rim and overflow, because pasta, when cooked, can increase in volume up to three times. Always cover the pot when boiling the water, but remove it once the pasta has been added.

Calculate about 7 g of salt for every litre of water. Add the salt only when the water has reached a boil and never before.

After adding the pasta to the pot, bring it back to a boil and keep it at a boil while the pasta is cooking. This allows the pasta to achieve an even cooking, be sure to stir frequently while it is cooking.

Never pass the freshly drained pasta under running tap water. You should never stop the cooking, even when you are making a cold pasta salad, let it cool by adding a drizzle of olive oil to prevent it from sticking.

Drain the pasta al dente, this is done by tasting, if it has a bite to it it’s ready, nothing worse than mushy pasta. If you have to toss the pasta in a pan with sauce (like this recipe) then cook it at least one minute less (pasta very al dente).

How to store it

Store any leftover pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge. Reheat in a skillet.

More Delicious Pasta Recipes

My mother-in-law would make this Italian Pasta recipe with tomato puree, but personally I prefer a chunkier sauce, that is why I use whole peeled Roma or Marzano tomatoes instead.

So wherever you are in this world, if it is Summer or Fall, warm or cold, there is nothing better than a plate of Tuna and Olive Pasta. Buon Appetito!

tuna and olive pasta in a black pan
tuna and olive pasta in a black pan

Pasta with Tuna and Olives

Rosemary Molloy
Pasta with Tuna and Olives is a fast and easy Pasta recipe that is perfect anytime. 
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Dish, Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings
Calories 329 kcal


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 pinches hot pepper flakes if desired
  • 1 can Peeled Roma or Marzano tomatoes (chopped/ 1 1/2 – 2 cups) (400 grams)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water
  • 1 can tuna ( I use canned in water ) (140 grams)
  • 20 green or black pitted olives sliced in half
  • 3 cups cooked short pasta (or approximately 1 1/2 -2 cups dry)


  • In a large pan add olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, hot pepper flakes, and water. Heat over medium heat, uncovered for approximately 15-20 minutes or until thickened.
  • While the sauce is cooking boil the water and cook the pasta al dente.
  • Then lower the heat, and add the tuna, stir to combine and simmer for about one minute. Add the olives, stirring to combine, add the cooked pasta and half a ladle of pasta water (about ¼ cup) tossing to combine on high heat until almost creamy. Serve immediately.


Calories: 329kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 699mg | Potassium: 423mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 324IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 3mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a comment below or pin it to your Pinterest account!

Updated from October 7, 2014.


  1. 5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious! I used 3 cloves of garlic by accident and it was superb. My husband and I will make this again! Thank you so much for the recipe. It will also come in handy during the upcoming Lenten season.

  2. This recipe is a little different than the one my mom (who’s from Rome) makes, but I’m sure it’s also very tasty. My mom uses Tonnino (ventresca) tuna in oil. She also adds dried Porcini mushrooms (reconstituted), capers, minced parsley, and the liquid from the tomatoes. She always uses spaghetti pasta. This dish is awesome, extremely flavorful, and easy to prepare.

  3. 5 stars
    Heaven in my mouth. Just like all your recipes. Exchanged chicken canned for the tuna. Allergic to Tuna. THANK YOU……

  4. I’m 89 yrs. old and have been eating this dish my whole life. It has always been my favorite go-to dish that I always make in a pinch and which always reminds me of my childhood and my grandmother. Thank you for introducing this to the rest of the world. I love your comments on living in Italy. That’s my favorite place to be.

    1. Hi Angela, thanks so much, and yes it is one of our favourites too. Whenever I’m short on time I usually make this pasta too. Have a wonderful weekend.

  5. Hi, Do I use canned or jarred tuna? I prefer the one in a jar for cooking and the canned one for sandwiches.


  6. 5 stars
    I made this as a rushed weekday dinner as I was rushing around between errands, and it turned out so good! I had to use pouches instead of cans of tuna (I used 2 pouches), half green and half kalamata olives, and farfalle instead of rigatoni (this was a true what’s-in-the-pantry dinner, lol). It came together really quickly and was tasty and filling. I will definitely be making this regularly!

  7. 5 stars
    My sister loves using tuna in her pasta dishes. I’ll definitely be sharing this one with her when I see her next week!

  8. 5 stars
    Both Rigatoni and Penne are probably my two favorite pastas when it comes to creating dishes like this one. In reading the post and looking at the ingredients, I was initially thrown off by the use of tuna which just happens to be what I consider one of creation’s greatest gifts. Within seconds though, I contemplated the addition of olives and then the sauce and suddenly I started to salivate! This dish looks to be a delicious meal and yet one more reason to use the tuna that I love so much. Fantastic job with this one!

    1. Thanks Dan, this was always one of my favourite pasta dishes that my mother-in-law would make and I still love it.

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