A Favorite Italian Comfort Food: Tuna with Garlic, Lemon, Capers & Olives


Pasta with Tuna, Garlic, Lemon, Capers and OlivesPasta is one of my favorite comfort foods. Sometimes when I’m too tired to cook a long, elaborate meal or don’t have time to defrost any meat, it’s great to be able to prepare a satisfying, delicious meal from ingredients in my cupboard. One of my absolute favorite pasta comfort dishes is Tuna with Garlic, Lemon, Capers & Olives.

This recipe, like much authentic Italian cooking, is extremely simple but does rely on the best ingredients. Quality Italian Tuna packed in olive oil, such as Flott is a must. I’ll use the best marinated black olives, not the pre-sliced flavorless ones from a can. Also, don’t even think of using dried parsley! Any shaped pasta with ridges and ruffles to catch and hold the tuna is a good choice; I like shells or as photographed here, Il Vecchio Pastificio Vesuvio Pasta which is attractive and unusual, as well as great with this sauce.

The recipe I use is adapted from Perfect Italian which is one of my favorite simple Italian cookbooks. I have made a few changes to the seasonings and amounts to reflect my personal tastes. This dish is really one of my staples as it combines so many of the salty, briny, tart and fresh flavors that I love. It’s as good fresh off the stove as it is the next day as a chilled pasta salad.

Tuna with Garlic, Lemon, Capers & Olives

16 ounces dried shaped pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
6-7 ounces canned tuna packed in oil, drained and broken into chunks
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon capers, drained
12 black olives, pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes, if desired

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare other ingredients by slicing the garlic, juicing the lemon, draining the capers and tuna, slicing the olives and chopping the parsley.

Once the water is boiling, add pasta and return to a boil. Heat half the butter and olive oil in a non-stick saute pan, then add the garlic. Cook garlic over medium-high heat until just starting to turn golden. Add tuna, capers, olives, lemon juice and lower the heat to just warm through ingredients.

Drain pasta when done, then return to pasta pot. Add sauce, parsley and mix. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Serves 4.

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4 Responses to A Favorite Italian Comfort Food: Tuna with Garlic, Lemon, Capers & Olives

  1. Yum. Dinner problem is solved for tonight. And thanks for calling for a whole pound of pasta, not some wimpy four ounces. 🙂

    • Oh yeah, if ya ain’t making a pound of pasta, there’s just no reason to bother, really. And with good quality ingredients there’s more than enough flavor punch, though of course butter/oil amounts can be adjusted if needed. I tend to like mine to not be too oily, especially if I let a little of the oil from the tuna mix in versus completely draining it.

      • Funny, that’s exactly what I did – use some of the tuna oil in place of the olive oil. And using orichiette was a great choice; the sauce filled up the little pockets in the pasta really nicely. I’ve already passed along the recipe to my sister, great job!!

        • Excellent – so glad you tried it and liked it! It’s really one of my favorites, so simple but really tasty, and one that tends to impress people – even ones who might scoff at canned tuna fish.

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