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  • Megan

tuna pantry pasta

Updated: Jun 12

Bowl of pasta topped with tuna, butter, parsley, kalamata olives, lemon, and seasoned toasted bread crumbs

Has a packet of tuna ever transported you from your landlocked backyard to the sea-sprayed Mediterranean coast? Me neither, until I made this pantry pasta recipe. It’s inspired by a recent Bon Appétit recipe for spaghetti tonno e burro, or tuna and butter spaghetti. The recipe’s author suggests a few different ways you might expand on this amusingly unadorned pasta, but then admits that the beauty of the dish comes from restraint.

Fair enough, but, restrain I did NOT.

In fact, I took all her suggestions for possible add-ins: salty olives, fresh parsley, lemon zest and juice, and yes, crunchy breadcrumbs and garlic for topping. I even threw some grated parmesan in the mix, because I struggle to serve pasta with no cheese.

I don’t regret any of it. The high notes of acid, herb, and brine are pulled down by butter, heat, and nutty cheese. The resulting dish is compelling enough to evoke fine dining decorum yet irresistible enough to pound in five forkfuls.

And it all began with a packet of tuna. Who would have thought?

tuna pantry pasta

serves 2


6 oz spaghetti

1 2.6 oz packet tuna

3 tablespoons butter

1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

10 Kalamata olives, chopped

zest from a quarter of a lemon

A few lemon wedges

freshly ground black pepper to taste (be generous)

pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

sprinkle of red pepper flakes

grated parmesan for topping


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add the pasta. While the pasta cooks…

  2. Combine in a large bowl the tuna, butter, parsley, olives, lemon zest, and a wedge of lemon juice. Season with black pepper and small pinch of sea salt. Set aside.

  3. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, bread crumbs, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about a minute, gently moving everything around in the oil so it toasts up evenly. Once the breadcrumbs are golden brown, remove them from the heat and pour them into a small bowl so they don’t burn.

  4. When your pasta reaches al dente, reserve a half cup of pasta water before straining the noodles.

  5. Add the cooked noodles to the tuna mixture and gently toss with a tongs until the butter is melted and everything is combined. If the tuna mixture is clumping up, toss in a splash or two of the reserved pasta water to thin it out.

  6. Divide the pasta into serving bowls and top with grated parmesan, toasted bread crumbs, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.


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