Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce and Tuna

Years ago I watched an episode of David Rocco's La Dolce Vita which featured this recipe. I admit that I was skeptical at the thought of canned tuna in pasta sauce but watching the episode convinced me to try the recipe. It has become one of my go-to dishes.

With the exception of cream, I always have the ingredients in my pantry and even if I don't, I can find substitutes that work. In a pinch I use jarred marinara sauce instead of making my own. I may also use green olives instead of black.

I find the sun dried tomatoes to be a key part of the dish. The sweetness balances the strong flavors of the tuna and olives and they add a nice texture.

Assuming I have everything on hand it's relatively simple to pull this dish together. It takes 10 minutes for the pasta to cook. I start the sauce about 2 minutes after I get the pasta into the boiling water. By the time the pasta is cooked, the sauce is ready.

It's a great dish to take directly to the table in the pan and serve family style but works equally well plated individually.

pasta, tomatoes, tuna, heavy cream
pasta, Italian
Yield: 4 servings
Author: David Rocco
Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce and Tuna

Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce and Tuna

modified slightly from the original recipes
Prep time: 20 MinCook time: 18 MinTotal time: 38 Min


For the pasta:
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 large sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 20 black olives, pitted
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
  • 7 ounces canned tuna
  • 2 cups tomato sauce or La Salsa di 5 Minuti, see recipe below
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 12 ounces penne pasta, cooked to al dente
  • Bunch fresh Italian or flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
For La Salsa di 5 Minuti (more like 15 minuti):
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can peeled plum tomatoes, pureed
  • Salt
  • 3 fresh basil leaves, torn


To make La Salsa di 5 Minuti:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion, garlic, and crush red pepper. Gently fry ingredients together, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add pureed plum tomatoes to saucepan. Simmer on low to medium heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Season with salt, to taste. Add basil leaves at the very end.
To make the pasta:
  1. Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions.
  2. While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic, sun dried tomatoes, black olives, and crushed red pepper. Cook until the garlic turns golden in color, but not burnt.
  3. Pour in the tomato sauce and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Drain the canned tuna and add it to the sauce. Stir gently being careful not to break up the tuna too much as it will break down more when the pasta is mixed in. Cook for an additional minute.
  5. Add the whipping cream and cook all together on high heat until the sauce is very hot but not bubbling.
  6. Add the pasta directly from the pasta pot into the sauce. Finish cooking directly in the sauce for an additional minute.
  7. Sprinkle the dish with parsley and drizzle with the best extra-virgin olive oil available. Serve immediately.

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Nutritional information calculated using The Recipes Generator

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La salsa di 5 minuti