Tuna and Red Pepper Pasta

$4.14 recipe / $0.69 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.50 from 8 votes
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I love Italian cooking because the pasta recipes are just so simple. Throw together some cooked pasta, olive oil, garlic, and maybe one or two other tasty ingredients and you’ve got yourself a meal. Case in point: Tuna and Red Pepper Pasta.

This recipe definitely fits that formula. The “sauce” is simply olive oil flavored with garlic, crushed red pepper, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. Add to that little bits of salty tuna and flecks of fresh parsley and you’re instantly transported to some little trattoria on the Mediterranean coast!

This recipe is quick, simple, light, and fresh. It will definitely be a winner for all of you who love the subtleties of olive oil’s flavor.

Tuna & Red Pepper Pasta

Tuna and Red Pepper Pasta in bowl with wooden spoon

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Tuna and Red Pepper Pasta

4.50 from 8 votes
The simple flavors in this Tuna and Red Pepper Pasta pack a major punch for an easy yet flavorful dish. 
Servings 6
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 20 minutes


  • 1 lb. pasta, any shape ($2.08)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil ($0.44)
  • 1 Tbsp 4 cloves minced garlic ($0.36)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper ($0.05)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley ($0.44)
  • 1 5 oz. can chunk tuna ($0.72)
  • to taste salt and pepper ($0.05)


  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil and garlic in a skillet that is large enough to hold the cooked pasta. Cook the garlic over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until it becomes very fragrant. Add the crushed red pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes more (do not let the red pepper burn, turn the heat down if it begins to brown).
  • Very carefully, add 1-2 ladles of the pasta cooking water to the skillet. Also add about 1/4 bunch of chopped parsley. Let this simmer over medium heat until the pasta is done cooking.
  • When the pasta is al dente, drain it briefly in a colander and then add it to the skillet. Stir everything together. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. If there is still liquid in the skillet, continue to let it simmer until it has evaporated (this shouldn’t take long).
  • Drain the can of tuna and gently stir it into the pasta. Add a little more fresh chopped parsley, red pepper, or salt and pepper if desired. Serve hot.

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I can’t help but thinking how wonderful a few kalamata olives would be thrown in there!


Serving: 1ServingCalories: 345.72kcalCarbohydrates: 57.67gProtein: 14.77gFat: 5.95gSodium: 204.42mgFiber: 2.68g
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Top view of Tuna and Red Pepper Pasta in bowl with wooden spoon

Step By Step Photos

pasta in pot of salted water
Begin by cooking the pasta in lightly salted water.

olive oil and garlic in large skillet
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet (big enough to hold all of the cooked pasta) along with the minced garlic. I have found that the price of fresh garlic has increased so much lately that I’ve been using the pre-minced garlic in a jar… but that’s just me. If using fresh, use about 4 cloves.

crushed red pepper added to olive oil and garlic in skillet
Let the garlic sizzle in the oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes and then add the crushed red pepper. Let that cook in the oil for 1-2 minutes more. If the red pepper begins to turn brown, turn the heat down so that it does not burn.

pasta water and parsley added to skillet
Very carefully add one or two ladles of the starchy pasta water to the skillet along with a handful or two of chopped parsley.

simmering ingredients in skillet
Let the ingredients in the skillet simmer until the pasta is finished cooking. It should be almost done by this time.

cooked pasta added to skillet
Briefly drain the cooked pasta and then add it to the skillet. Stir everything together and then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. If there is still some liquid in the skillet, let it simmer over medium heat until it is mostly gone.

drained can of tuna added to noodles and other ingredients in skillet
Drain the can of tuna and gently stir it into the pasta mixture. I decided at this point that I wanted to add a tad more parsley and red pepper. Stir gently so that the tuna doesn’t break into a million pieces.

finished tuna and red pepper pasta
And there you have it. Simple, delicious, filling.

Close up of Tuna and Red Pepper Pasta

I always find it difficult to successfully stir stuff into spaghetti. It seems like the spaghetti stays in one clump and all of the other ingredients collect on the outside edges of the pan. So, although the spaghetti looked nice here, in the future I will probably use something like bowtie just to make it easier. Either way, Tuna and Red Pepper Pasta is a WINNER.

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  1. Delicious pasta dish for the summer. I added purple onion, fresh basil, and lemon juice to the mix and it was filling but not too heavy. Thank you!

  2. This has become my favorite quick and easy pantry meal. Tastes amazing cold as well.

  3. Simple and delicious. Made it just as directed, except I used a second can of tuna (we were low on protein for the day). It’s so great to have something this easy as a “pantry meal” that’s always ready to go in just a few minutes. Thanks for this one! 

  4. So good! Your recipes never cease to amaze me! This was super easy to put together, such simple (and cheap!!!) ingredients, super filling and delicious and I’ll definitely be making it again.

  5. I made this a second time with a couple of add ins and suggestions from other reviews. I used a different noddle, elbow, because it’s hard to coat spaghetti noodles with the ingredients. I also sauteed some green/red/yellow peppers I had along with onions. I added onion and garlic powder and only used 1/4 tsp of pepper flakes. I used two cans of tuna with the juice and only used 1 ladle of pasta water as 1 lb of elbow noodles looked like a lot of noodles for only one can. With these changes it was amazing and easy to do, very light dinner and will definitely make again.

  6. I made this tonight for dinner and really enjoyed it. I made it with wagon wheel pasta and added lemon juice at the end when I stirred in the tuna. I also didn’t have fresh parsley on hand and used freeze dried parsley. It had a lot of heat which I liked! I used albacore white tuna and would probably use two cans next time instead of one.

  7. I am commenting on this recipe because I made some changes to it with mixed results. Bad: My wife does not like tuna so I substituted cod. Poor choice, this dish needs a strong flavor which the cod did not provide. Good: Put parmesan cheese and lemon juice in. These flavors perked up the dish quite a bit. I also may have ladled a bit too much of the noodle water into the skillet. All in all, it was ok. Tuna is a must.

  8. Hy, i’m Daniela :)
    i just want to say for anyone who posted here by now :

    And this … specialy for you :
    Congrats !!! :) And keep going amazing us ! :)
    BTW : Since i just met you i just subscribed !
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    Yours, Daniela

  9. I tried this recipe because I had nothing pulled out of the freezer for dinner one night. On the plus side, the ingredients are very standard and most people have them in stock. On the downside, I thought it did not have enough flavor. To remedy that, I made lots of modifications including: adding sliced olives, sauteeing onions with the garlic, adding some white wine instead of just pasta water, using fresh basil instead of parsley, and adding frozen peas.

  10. I just made this with tomato pasta. The tomato pasta gives it a great color and it was delish. Although, I think I may have put too much red pepper for my 9 year old.

  11. I added spinach with the pasta water instead of parsley, a cube of frozen cilantro, and lemon at the end. So, so good!

  12. Just made this tonight (after finding this blog for the first time today!). Added kalamtas and feta, also added some arugula at the end since (a) I didn’t have any parsley and needed something fresh in it, and (b) I had it & needed to use it. This was a great tasting yet very simple dish. I can’t wait to make it for friends.
    Your blog is very inspiring and your recipes are REALISTIC. Love it!

  13. I started out with this recipe tonight, but it ended up being a “clean out the fridge” fest. I added in the anchovies and olives left over from the Mediterranean Tuna Pasta, a yellow bell pepper I got on sale that I didn’t know what to do with (50¢), some diced Roma tomatoes, and a handful of sliced baby bella mushrooms. By the end, I kinda ended up with “Antipasto Pasta.” :D
    Ah, livin’ large! :p