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Tuna Ragu with Bucatini

Pasta with Tuna In Bowl Styled
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Tuna Ragu with Bucatini is a simple, Sicily-inspired pasta with a savory tomato-based sauce of rich tuna that is slowly-simmered and accented with a touch of anchovy, garlic, white wine and fresh herbs. It is the epitome of a quick weeknight pasta and can mostly be made with items that are likely already in your pantry.

Pasta with Tuna In Bowl Styled

Tuna Ragu with Bucatini, a.k.a., pasta al tonno, pasta with tuna, and tuna sauce, is basically pasta in a red tuna sauce. But, it can be made without tomatoes for a bianco version, which is also very good. It’s a dish that my Sicilian-American mom made for us regularly. I love that its flavor is so reminiscent of my childhood and family. And, also, it comes together so quickly (in about 30 minutes!) with just a few pantry staples. It’s a great example of the simplicity of Italian food, relying on a few high-quality ingredients and basic techniques.

There are several versions of this dish that exist. The version that I grew up with and that I’ve shared with you here features a long pasta tossed with a garlic and anchovy-infused tomato sauce that gets a touch of heat from dried peperoncino and freshness from some parsley. And, although my mom didn’t use white wine in her sauce, I added it over the years as I like the acidity and flavor that it adds to the dish. The tuna is added to the sauce just before the tomatoes and simmers for a while, creating the ragu. However, many cooks choose to add the tuna as one of the final steps.

This recipe is a simple and delicious balancing act between the brightness of the tomatoes and the savoriness of the tuna. It’s one of my favorites, and I hope that it will become one of yours as well!

Ingredients

To make this Tuna Ragu with Bucatini, we will be using the following ingredients:

  • Tuna in Olive Oil: You can use any canned tuna that you have in your pantry for this dish. It is best with the tuna packed in olive oil, but can also be made with tuna packed in water in a pinch. Olive-oil packed tuna is sold in cans and jars of varying sizes, but do not worry if the pack size does not line up 100% with the recipe below. A little more or a little less tuna will work fine in this recipe.
  • Pasta: I used bucatini here, but this recipe works really well with many types of long and short pasta shapes, such as linguine, spaghetti, penne rigate and busiate.
  • Garlic: As in most of my recipes, garlic is an important flavor builder. Feel free to add more or use less based on your personal preference.
  • White Wine: I have made this recipe many, many times without using wine, but I do believe it makes the final dish better. Be sure to use a dry (i.e., not sweet) white wine and always select a wine that you would actually like to drink. I generally cook with a reasonably priced pinot grigio.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Used to sauté the anchovy and garlic. A pure olive oil can be used here in place of extra-virgin.
  • Canned Tomatoes: I prefer to use whole tomatoes that I then crush by hand, as they are less processed than other varieties. But, you can certainly use diced, crushed or even tomato puree in this recipe.
  • Anchovy: The anchovies dissolve into the olive oil early in the cooking process, contributing a subtle, but significant, briny- and salti-ness.
  • Parsley: I use flat leaf, a.k.a., Italian, parsley in this dish for an element of freshness, but feel free to leave it out if you do not have any on hand.

A complete and detailed list of ingredients with amounts and instructions is included in the recipe below.⁠

Step-By-Step, Pro-Tips included!

Here are the main steps for how to make this Tuna Ragu with Bucatini:

  • Prep and measure all ingredients. Combine the olive oil, garlic, anchovies and crushed red pepper and cook until the anchovy has mostly dissolved.
    • PRO-TIP: Use the oil from both the anchovy and tuna cans or jars for added flavor.
Pasta with Tuna Ingredients
  • Add half the parsley to the pan, stir and cook for about 2 minutes. Then, add the tuna and continue to cook for about 2 minutes.
    • PRO-TIP: If using tuna in water, be sure to drain out all water before using.

  • Add the white wine and deglaze, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Then, add the tomatoes, water, salt and black pepper and stir until all ingredients are well-combined. Cover and bring up to a simmer. Simmer about 12 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally.

  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. ⁠ Once the water comes to a boil, add salt, then the pasta, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions, or about 2 minutes before you think it is al dente. Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
    • PRO-TIP: Don’t skimp on the water! Use a large pot with 5 to 6 quarts water for 1 pound of pasta. And, bring the water to a boil before adding the salt. The water will boil a little more strongly for a second when you do so, and this will ensure that the salt is dissolved immediately. If you add the salt to the pot when the water is cold, it may just deposit on the bottom of the pot. Use 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp salt.

  • Transfer the cooked pasta and about ½ cup pasta water to the pan with the sauce and toss well, allowing the pasta to finish cooking in the delicious flavors of the sauce. Add additional pasta water of more moisture is needed. Adjust seasonings with additional salt and black pepper if necessary. Fold in remaining parsley and serve. That’s it!
Pasta with Tuna In Bowl

Recipe Variations for Tuna Ragu with Bucatini

Here are a few ideas to change up this Tuna Ragu with Bucatini recipe:

  • Make it Whole Grain or Gluten-Free: Just switch out the traditional pasta for a whole wheat or gluten-free pasta.
  • Puttanesca it: Add some capers, chopped, oil-cured, black olives and oregano to this and it will be very similar to a Pasta alla Puttanesca.
  • Add More Heat! Increase the amount of crushed red pepper or add some Calabrian chili paste when sautéing the garlic.
  • Add Crunch: Top off the pasta with some toasted breadcrumbs for additional texture and crunch.

What to Serve With Tuna Ragu with Bucatini

Tuna Ragu with Bucatini is a hearty, main course pasta, complete with lots of protein. I like to serve it with some sautéed broccoli rabe and a light green salad with red wine vinaigrette. Dessert should be light – perhaps biscotti and coffee, mixed fruit, or lemon sorbet.

Pasta with Tuna In Bowl

Kitchen Tools & Cookware for Tuna Ragu with Bucatini

To make this Tuna Ragu with Bucatini recipe, you will need the following:

Pasta with Tuna In Bowl Landscape

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Pasta with Tuna In Bowl Styled

Tuna Ragu with Bucatini

Michele
Tuna Ragu with Bucatini is a simple, Sicily-inspired pasta with a savory tomato-based sauce full of rich tuna that is slowly-simmered and accented with a touch of anchovy, garlic, white wine and fresh herbs. It is the epitome of a quick weeknight pasta that can mostly be made with items that are likely already in your pantry.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (You can use the oil from both the anchovies and canned tuna.)
  • 1/4 cup thinly-sliced garlic
  • 2-3 anchovy filets
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
  • 3 (5 ounce) cans tuna in olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1/4 can water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pound bucatini + salt for pasta water

Instructions
 

  • Prep all ingredients according to specifications above.
  • Combine the olive oil, garlic, anchovies and crushed red pepper in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until the anchovy has mostly dissolved and the garlic has softened a bit.
  • Add half the parsley to the pan, stir and cook for about 2 minutes. Then, add the tuna and continue to cook for about 2 minutes.
  • Add the white wine and deglaze, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Then, add the tomatoes, water, salt and black pepper and stir until all ingredients are well-combined. Cover and bring up to a simmer. Simmer about 12 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. ⁠ Once the water comes to a boil, add salt, then the pasta, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions, or about 2 minutes before you think it is al dente. Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
  • Transfer the cooked pasta and about ½ cup pasta water to the pan with the sauce and toss well, allowing the pasta to finish cooking in the delicious flavors of the sauce. Add additional pasta water of more moisture is needed. Adjust seasonings with additional salt and black pepper if necessary. Fold in remaining parsley and serve. Buon Appetito!

Notes

  • Tuna in olive oil is best for this recipe, but tuna in water can be used as well. Just be sure to drain out all water before using.
  • Use a large pot with 5 to 6 quarts water for 1 pound of pasta. Bring the water to a boil before adding the salt. Use 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp salt.
  • The pasta water is key! Add it to the sauce along with the pasta for the additional moisture needed to finish cooking the pasta.
  • I paired this Tuna Sauce with bucatini but it works will with lots of other pasta shapes–both long and short!
  • Top this with toasted breadcrumbs for a nice crunch!
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
If you try this recipe, please share a photo on INSTAGRAM or FACEBOOK and tag it @MangiaWithMichele and #MangiaWithMichele. I’d love to see it!
Keyword tuna recipes, tuna, tuna sauce, pasta with tuna, tuna ragu, tuna pasta, seafood, seafood recipes, fish, fish recipes, Sicilian recipes, pasta, pasta recipes, bucatini

1 thought on “Tuna Ragu with Bucatini

  1. 5 stars
    My mom always had this growing up. So good.

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