Pasta With Garlic, Lemon, Capers, and Tuna

Pasta with Oil-Packed Tuna, Capers, Lemon, Garlic and White Wine
Danette St. Onge
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
363 Calories
18g Fat
25g Carbs
21g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 363
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 6g 28%
Cholesterol 25mg 8%
Sodium 438mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 21g
Vitamin C 4mg 22%
Calcium 25mg 2%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 191mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This simple pasta recipe was probably invented to make use of ingredients you might already have in your pantry for a quick, effortless weeknight dinner. But the resulting dish is so much more than an easy meal that essentially cleans out the cupboards; the combination of oil-packed tuna, garlic, capers, and lemon works beautifully together, creating a somewhat sophisticated tasting pasta salad.

Short pasta, like fusilli, gemelli, or penne, is tossed in a simple sauce of tuna, capers, garlic, lemon zest, white wine, and parsley, with a touch of red chile pepper for spice and butter for richness. The result is greater than the sum of its parts—a truly delicious dish that tastes so complex and refined, it's difficult to believe how easy it is to make.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 teaspoons finely minced garlic, from about 3 cloves, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chile pepper flakes, or 1 small, dried red peperoncino, crushed with your fingers

  • 3 tablespoons salt-packed capers, soaked in water for 15 to 20 minutes and then rinsed thoroughly a few times to remove excess salt

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 2 (6-ounce) cans extra-virgin olive oil packed yellowfin tuna, drained

  • Fine sea salt, to taste

  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into several pieces

  • 1 pound short pasta, cooked to al dente and drained, 1/4 cup of the cooking water reserved

  • Freshly ground black black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. In a skillet large enough to hold the pasta, heat the oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the garlic, the red chile pepper flakes, and capers over medium heat until fragrant (but not browned), about 1 minute. 

  2. Add the wine and bring to barely a simmer; cook for 1 minute.

  3. Add the tuna and salt to taste and sauté over low heat for 1 minute.

  4. Toss the tuna-caper mixture with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of minced garlic, the parsley, lemon zest, butter, cooked pasta, and as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to form a creamy sauce that coats the pasta. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

Recipe Tips

It is important that you use extra-virgin olive oil packed yellowfin tuna rather than the somewhat mushy and flavorless water-packed white tuna. It will hold its shape better and bring a more sophisticated taste to the dish. Even better is to buy an Italian brand of olive-oil packed tuna.

You also want to include salt-packed capers versus vinegar-packed; salt-packed have a far superior texture, are firm to the bite, and retain their fragrant caper flavor, compared to vinegar-packed, which tend to get mushy and taste of nothing but vinegar. The original Italian recipe for this dish calls for a lot more garlic so feel free to add another clove if you so desire.

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