Paccheri al Tonno, the Ultimate Italian Tuna Pasta Recipe

What's Special
Paccheri al Tonno, my fresh version of an Italian Tuna Pasta Recipe, packed with umami and flavors form the sea, inclulding Capers, Olives, Tuna, Mackerel and Onions.

When I had Paccheri al Tonno for the first time in Tuscany, I was blown away by it’s complex flavors as well as the light sauce and freshness. I immediately wrote down all the ingredients I could see in the Pasta dish and started to recreate this amazing Italian Tuna Pasta when I was back home.

After several attempts ane some try and error, I mastered this amazing Paccheri al Tonno Recipe with just the right ingredients and balance between them. The result is a super fresh Tuna Pasta with a slightly acidic and briny sauce that you’ll crave for more!

If you or one of your loved ones is a fan of tuna as well, you just have to try this recipe. I can assure you, that this Pasta will not dissapoint. Have fun trying it out!

Italian Tuna Pasta – Table of contents

Cooking Paccheri al Tonno

Key Points for a Successful Tuna Pasta

The right Pasta

You’ll find a Fish Pasta dish like this with Tuna and Capers on the island of Elba and especially in the Tuscany region. For sure there are other regions with other tuna pasta recipes as well, but in this article, we’re covering this particular recipe with Paccheri, tuna and capers.

Paccheri is a large-tubed Pasta originating from the Campania region in Italy. This Pasta shape just works perfectly with a light, briny and oily sauce like this tuna sauce, as the Pasta remains some bite and holds the sauce inside the tube shape.

For sure, you can use other Pasta shapes for this Recipe as well, just be sure to use great quality, rather starchy Pasta. You’ll need starchy pasta water in the end to get a creamy sauce due to the emulsion of the starchy water and oil.

Quality Italian Paccheri Pasta

When to add the Tuna / Mackerel

I found out, that when adding the Tuna from the beginning, the fish will lose some of its taste. Also, will the Tuna fall apart and mix too much into the sauce, giving you a rather thicker sauce. I got much better results adding the Tuna at the end, so you still have some bigger junks of fish in the Pasta.

For this Paccheri al Tonno, I also included Mackerel fish. The mackerel is oilier and greasier and causes a richer “fish/sea” taste. As the Mackerel is greasier and is not the main star in the recipe, you can add it into the sauce earlier so the Fish will release its grease and taste into the olive oil and other ingredients.

Paccheri with Tuna

Use a large Pasta Pan / Sauté Pan

The last tip is to use a large enough Pasta or / Sauté Pan. In Italy, or for good Pasta in general. you usually finish the slightly undercooked pasta in a pasta pan, where the sauce was made before. This way the pasta can absorb more of the flavours from the sauce, as it soaks up the sauce while it finishes cooking al dente.

In Italy, mostly Aluminium Pasta Pans are used to finish the pasta, which is available in several sizes. When considering buying one of these pans, I suggest going with one of the larger sizes, as they hold more pasta when cooking for several people, or if you need the extra volume when cooking pasta like linguine alle vongole.

The other option is to use an existing large Sauté Pan with higher side walls.

Ingredients you need for my Paccheri al Tonno Recipe

Italian Tuna Pasta

As often in Italian cuisine, there are just a few ingredients involved, but ones that fit together very well and balance each other out. In this particular pasta recipe, there are a few more ingredients used, which all contribute to the ultimate umami taste. For my Pasta al Tonno, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Paccheri Pasta
    As described above, Paccheri is a pasta shape that works really well together with a sauce like this and still retains its bite.
  • Capers
    The capers are one of the main ingredients next to the tuna fish, which both really work great together and are used together in several other recipes.
  • Black Olives
    The olives, especially when infused to the olive oil sauce, offer a lot of flavours and a complex umami taste. I almost always like to use black olives as they have a stronger flavour. Also, I always use olives that are not already pitted, as they have more flavour as well as pre-pitted ones.
  • Garlic
    Garlic works as one of the overall best aromatics when it comes to Mediterranean kitchens.
  • Mackerel
    The Mackerel as a fat-rich fish adds another layer of grease and oiliness to the sauce and adds up to a stronger fish-flavor.
  • Tuna
    As the name of the recipe suggests, Tuna is the star of this recipe. To prevent its taste, I suggest adding the tuna just at the end when finishing the pasta. This way you’ll have larger chunks of fish when serving.
  • White wine and Lemon
    Both wine and lemon are responsible for the acid content in the sauce. They also both work really well together with the other ingredients, especially the fish.
  • Parsley
    For the fresh, herbal and slightly peppery kick.
  • Pepperoncini
    For just a little but not too much heat.

How to make the Ultimate Italian Tuna Pasta – Step-by-Step Guide

If you like to watch the recipe instead of reading it, you can watch my detailed Video Recipe below.

Step 1: Mise en Place / Preparation

The first step is to prepare and mise en place all ingredients used in the sauce, which makes it way easier when throwing everything together into the sauce from time to time.

  • First, bring to boil a large pot of pasta water.
  • Finely slice the Onion, garlic and pepperoncini and put them aside separately.
  • Finely chop the capers and put aside as well.
  • Pit the black olives and put them aside.

Step 2: Preparing the Pasta Sauce

  • Heat up a large pasta pan over medium heat and add the olive oil
  • Now add the onions and olives, mix well and fry over medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes until golden and soft.
  • Add the capers, chili and garlic and turn the stove down to low heat and keep frying for about 5 minutes.
  • Now its time to cook the Paccheri in the meantime. Cook the Pasta just 3-4 minutes less than written on the packaging so the pasta is slightly undercooked. The Pasta will finish cooking in the sauce later.
  • Put the stove back to medium heat and add the canned Mackerel. Mix together and deglaze with the white wine. Reduce the sauce for 5-10 minutes over low heat so the Alcohol can evaporate.

Step 3: Finishing the Pasta al Tonno

  • Add a pinch of salt & pepper to the sauce and now add the undercooked Paccheri together with a little pasta water. Also, sprinkle half of the fresh lemon juice. Carefully mix them with the sauce.
  • Chop the flat-leaf parsley and add to the pasta. Also add the canned tuna now. Give everything a careful mix and serve on a large plate.
  • Finally, sprinkle the other half of lemon juice and also a pinch of good sea salt.

You’re now done, enjoy a lovely portion of Italian seafood pasta full of flavours of the sea, I’m sure you’ll love it! Buon appetito!

Watch how to make Paccheri al Tonno – Video Recipe

Frequently Asked Questions for Italian Tuna Pasta

Can you heat up cold Tuna Pasta?

You can safely reheat seafood or tuna pasta up to 3-4 days after it’s made. When mixed with garlic or herbs, the pasta can turn out slightly more bitter but will still taste amazing if not even better. Just be sure to add some more water and/or oil so the sauce is not too dry.

How long is Pasta with tuna good in the fridge?

Tuna Pasta will last about 3-4 days in the fridge when stored in an airtight container. The pasta, when reheated can turn out a bit soft than when eaten fresh and al dente.

Is tuna OK for weight loss?

Tuna is a great food for weight loss as it has lots of proteins and is low in calories and carbs. Canned tuna, however, has more fats, especially when canned in oil. So best to use canned tuna held in water or olive oil.

Love Italian Food? Here are some more delicious Italian Recipes

Linguine alle Vongole recipe
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Linguine with clams are a true Italian classic, a seafood pasta offering you the full flavors of the sea.
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Paccheri al Tonno

Paccheri al Tonno is a light an fresh Italian Tuna Pasta with an oily, slightly acidic and briny sauce. Including capers, olives, onions, Mackerel and tuna.
Servings 3 people
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes




Preparation / Mise en Place

  • bring to boil a large pot of pasta water
  • finely slice the garlic cloves so as the pepperoncini and put aside
    2 cloves garlic, 2 dried pepperoncini
  • finely chop the capers, pit the black olives and slice the onion and put aside seperately.
    350 grams black olives, 120 grams capers, 1 large white onion
    chopping capers

Preparing the Sauce

  • Put a large pasta pan on medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the sliced onions and olives and fry over medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes.
    10 tbsp olive oil
  • add the capers, garlic and pepperoncini, mix together well and set the stove to low heat.
    Cooking Tuna Pasta in Italy
  • Add the Paccheri to the boiling and salted pasta water and cook 3-4 minutes less than written on the packiging.
    500 grams Paccheri Pasta
    Quality Italian Paccheri Pasta
  • Set the stove back to medium heat, add the canned Mackerel to the sauce and mix well together. Now deglace with the white wine and let the sauce reduce for about 5-10 minutes over medium-low heat.
    125 grams canned mackerel, 1 glass semi-dry white wine
    Cooking in Italy
  • add pepper and salt so as the undercooked Paccheri Pasta together with some starchy pasta water. Mix together and sprinkle half of the lemon juice.
    1 pinch pepper, 1 pinch salt, 1 lemon
    Italian Tuna Pasta Recipe
  • Chop the parsley and add to the pasta. If the pasta is still not al dente, add some more pasta water and cook for a little longer.
    1 handful flat-leaf parsley
  • Finally add the canned tuna and mix. If needed, add a little pasta water until you get a light and briny sauce.
    150 grams canned tuna
    Paccheri with Tuna
  • Serve the Paccheri al Tonno on a large plate and sprinkle with the other half of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
    Italian Paccheri al Tonno
  • Enjoy this super tasty Italian tuna pasta dish!
Author: Fabian
Cost: 20
dish: Dinner, Hauptgericht, Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: fish pasta, italian pasta, Pasta, tuna


Serving: 300g

Did you make this Italian Tuna Pasta?

If so, I’m more than happy to hear what you think about it and how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below tag @flavorthoughts on Instagram and hashtag it #flavorthoughts. You can also follow me on YouTube for the newest Recipe Videos,  as well as Pinterest and TikTok.

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