Spaghetti Peperonata with tuna and olives is a rustic Italian style pasta that’s easy to throw together on a weeknight. It’s an inexpensive, healthy 30 minute meal with that casual Mediterranean ‘let’s set up dinner in the vineyard tonight’ vibe. Not bad for a box of pasta, some fresh peppers, and a can of tuna!
pasta peperonata with tuna and olives is a quick and easy from-the-pantry-meal.
This authentic peperonata recipe combines always available pantry ingredients with a burst of fresh peppers and tomatoes. It’s hard to believe that spaghetti with canned tuna and olives can be so fresh and vibrant. (Spoiler alert: it’s the peppers!)
I found my inspiration while flipping through Martha Stewart Living in bed the other night. When I came across this spaghetti peperonata with tuna and olives I ripped out the page, set it aside, and went to sleep, happily dreaming about how to make it my own for the next night’s dinner.
ingredients for pasta peperonata
The Italians are masters at combining a little bit of this and a little bit of that into a simple masterpiece. They respect their ingredients ~ every one is top notch and earns its spot in the recipe. Good quality evoo and fresh garlic are a given. With this cast of characters you can’t mess it up.
- good quality canned tuna, I like to buy the Italian kind, packed in olive oil
- thin spaghetti ~ I prefer thin because it’s lighter. Be sure to cook it just to the al dente stage, which usually means a couple of minutes shy of what the package says. It should have a nice ‘chew’.
- fresh bell peppers, the more colorful the better.
- fresh basil. I love to buy the living plants from my supermarket, they last and last.
- glossy black olives (check out your supermarket’s olive bar for the freshest.)
- Parmesan cheese, and remember, it isn’t true Parmesan unless it’s marked Parmigiano Reggiano.
how to pit olives like an Italian ~
Fresh olives from an olive bar are so much better than jarred or canned. And olives with pits have better flavor and texture than those that have been pre-pitted. But how do you get those darned pits out? I like to smash the olive with the side of a chef’s knife, just like you do when you are peeling a clove of garlic ~ check out the video in the recipe card to see me do it.
I’m a believer in the power of peppers ~ my crisper drawer is packed with them at all times.
I admit, I shop with my eyes and I’ll collect as many different colors as I can, I simply can’t walk by a pile of colorful peppers, whether it’s at the farmers market or in the produce aisle. I’m not afraid of a little heat, either, so anything goes (I like the surprise factor!) The result, in a meal like this, is a nice blend of peppery flavors ranging from very sweet to earthy, to hot and spicy.
Tip: add a few hot peppers into the mix, a jalapeño, Serrano, or even a few red chile flakes makes this pasta peperonata pop!
The little kick of heat makes a big difference and balances out the sweetness of the bell peppers.
TVFGI recommends: multi pot with strainer
The pan is large, but it multi-tasks and has earned its space in my cabinet. I don’t dread making and draining pasta anymore. I use it for a Low Country Shrimp Boil at least once every year!
more Italian pasta
- Shrimp Scampi Fra Diavolo
- Chicken Margherita Pasta
- Sicilian Pasta with Almonds and Anchovies
- Pasta Alla Norma
- Spaghetti con Pignoli
Spaghetti Peperonata with Tuna and Olives
- olive oil
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 bell peppers, assorted colors, cored and seeded and sliced in thin strips
- 1 jalapeño or Serrano pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 small red chile pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 Tbsp yellow raisins or currants
- 1/2 cup kalamata or oil cured black olives, pitted
- 5 ounce can albacore tuna in olive oil, lightly drained
- a large handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons (reserve some for garnish)
- 3/4 lb spaghetti
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet and sauté the onion for a few minutes until it softens. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a few minutes more.
- Add the peppers and cook for about 5-6 minutes, until they are glossy and softened. Add the tomatoes and cook for a minute more. Add the raisins or currants, olives, and tuna to the pan.
- Cook the pasta just until it reaches the al dente stage. Reserve some of the cooking liquid and then lift out the pasta straight into the pan with the peppers, bringing along a little of the cooking water with it.
- Toss everything gently together, adding half the cheese, the fresh basil, and a little more pasta water if it seems too dry. Toss until the cheese has melted.
- Serve topped with the remaining cheese. Garnish with some extra basil if you like. I always do.
Questions and Reviews
This recipe was FANTASTIC. Pasta and tuna, who knew it could be so delicious?! I bought the most expensive tuna I could find and it was luscious! Can’t wait to have the leftovers tonight.
Oh I’m jealous, I haven’t had this meal in a while. I love that you splurged on your tuna 🙂
Exceeded expectations. Just sensationally yum-scious! As with most pasta recipes, I reduced the amount of spaghetti so there would be vegetables and sauce in every bite. The golden raisins are a stroke of genius! Thanks for another great one, Sue! Eager to try the Thai pineapple fried rice next!
This is a personal favorite of mine so I’m happy you liked it so much!
Sue, when do you stir in the handful of basil ribbons? I don’t see that step in the recipe–only basil used for garnish. Thanks!
I’d toss them at the very end with the cheese, I just clarified that in the recipe!
Thank you! Getting ready to make it!!
I made this last night using red onion and left all ingredients raw using an oil and vinegar dressing. My family loved it!
I’ve made this recipe a number of times, it’s a nice, easy summer meal. I’ve made it as-is and have also added chickpeas, feta, lemon juice and/or zest depending on my mood (and pantry). It’s also really good with chickpea pasta, and is delicious both hot and cold. Thank you!
Thanks Katie, it’s one of my personal favorites. I’ll try adding chickpeas next time.
Sue, the video showing how to easily pit an olive is not working.
Should be working now, thanks Carolyn 🙂
We had this for dinner tonight and it was absolutely perfect! My only change was to add some lemon zest, as I was using some lemon juice for something else, and it worked beautifully. Thank you for this flavorful addition to our repertoire!
I’m especially happy to hear good reports on this recipe Katie because it’s one of my personal favorites, I could eat it once a week for the rest of my life, good thing it’s healthy 🙂
Hi Sue, just wanted to say thank you very much for this recipe – just made it for lunch for me and my husband (we are currently living in Greece) and it was delicious; I love the mixture of flavours, just my thing! I came across your recipe about a week ago and as I was intrigued by the obviously contrasting flavours of this dish, I decided to subscribe, so thank you for that too. Best wishes, Nadia Ashkenazy-Jones
Welcome into the ‘family’ Nadia ~ I’m so glad you enjoyed this!
It’s always dangerous to visit your site because, even if I’ve just eaten, I leave hungry! This pasta looks and sounds amazing and just went straight on to next week’s menu! Thank you, Susan!
You’re so welcome 🙂
I love the look of peppers too — and cook with them ALL the time! This is a terrific looking dish — loads of different flavors and textures working together here. Thanks!
Peppers are so incredible, no other vegetable (or I guess I should say fruit) comes close to being so versatile.