Spaghetti Peperonata with Tuna and Olives

Pasta peperonata with tuna in a bowl with fork

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!

Spaghetti Peperonata in a blue bowl on a wooden table

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!)

Pasta peperonata with tuna in a bowl with fork

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.

Pasta peperonata with tuna and olives in a bowl with fork

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.

Pasta peperonata with tuna in a bowl with fork .

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.

Peppers for Spaghetti Peperonata with Tuna and Olives

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.

Spaghetti Peperonata with tuna and olives in a blue bowl

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!

“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!”


more Italian pasta

Pasta peperonata with tuna in a bowl with fork
4.56 from 29 votes

Spaghetti Peperonata with Tuna and Olives

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.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mediterranean
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Yield 6 servings
Calories 324kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 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 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 fresh basil if you like. I always do.



Calories: 324kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 383mg | Potassium: 424mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 2114IU | Vitamin C: 83mg | Calcium: 110mg | Iron: 2mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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  • Reply
    September 25, 2018 at 9:18 am

    I spied some Italian tuna in my pantry and as a fellow pepper lover, this would make a fabulous, easy dinner. Wonder if I can convince Bill it’s tuna casserole, only better????

    • Reply
      October 24, 2018 at 9:29 am

      It’s worth a try!

  • Reply
    Robert L
    September 24, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    This sounds good, my Dr. told me to start a Mediterranean Diet. So I have been eating a lot of olives and other veggies from olive bars like Fresh Market or Lucky’s. I just dice them up and add some other veggies that I might put in a steamer. I put some feta cheese from the olive bar on the plate than some hot spaghetti on top then all the olives and veggies and add some more EVOO, maybe some parmesan cheese on top. Adding tuna is a great Idea. I do use yellow and green squash too. Any veggie would work, well sauerkraut might not. Avocados are really good too.
    I really like your recipes, I get a lot from them.

    • Reply
      September 24, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      I love this kind of diet, too. You’ll find lots of Mediterranean inspiration here Robert!

  • Reply
    Lynn A
    September 24, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    “…dinner in the vineyard.” That just sounds sooo classy and sophisticated! Love it! Sadly, I’ll have to eat mine on my island. Kitchen island, that is! Dining room table is covered with a craft project! Hahaha! Thanks for another great recipe!

  • Reply
    September 24, 2018 at 10:55 am

    5 stars
    A comforting and delicious meal! Love those gorgeous peppers.

  • Reply
    Dean Jones
    September 24, 2018 at 8:21 am

    Peppers an I don’t get along…. what about yellow and green squash as a substitute?

    • Reply
      September 24, 2018 at 8:31 am

      You could certainly do that, I would make sure they don’t get overcooked. You could also use more cherry tomatoes, or even eggplant.

  • Reply
    September 24, 2018 at 8:07 am

    Pitting olives should not be so much of a mystery. Where is the video? I’m starving.

    • Reply
      September 24, 2018 at 8:15 am

      The video is playing at the top of the post Malcom 🙂

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    September 24, 2018 at 8:57 am

    5 stars
    I love this unique spaghetti dinner. I forget about tuna so thanks for the reminder. It’s unique, beautiful and loaded with so many wonderful flavors and textures!
    And I’m glad someone else reads cooking magazines like other people read novels before falling asleep at night 🙂

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    September 24, 2018 at 6:46 am

    So much flavour going on in this beautiful pasta dish! Can’t wait to try it 🙂

  • Reply
    September 24, 2018 at 4:22 am

    Looks at those gorgeous peppers! What a great meal – with great flavors. LOVE it 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
    September 24, 2018 at 5:07 am

    5 stars
    I could live on this dish Sue. All my favorite ingredients and so easy to put together too! Can’t wait to give it a try!

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