Tuna Pesto Pasta (Quick & Easy!)
Tuna and pesto are such a lovely combination — truly a match made in flavor heaven, and this recipe for tuna pesto pasta creates a satisfying meal that the whole family will enjoy in just 20 minutes. Plus it relies on pantry staples, so it’s a great last-minute dinner idea.
5 star review
“Robyn is on to something – tuna and pesto are a great flavor combo! I would not have tried this if I didn’t see the recipe. Delicious! Definitely a pantry staple recipe.”– Jill K
About Tuna Pesto Pasta
If you’re looking for a quick and easy last-minute meal that’s both delicious and versatile, look no further than this tuna pesto pasta recipe.
This quick recipe is one of my favorites for busy weeknights when I’m low on groceries, but still want a healthy meal that the whole family will enjoy.
For the recipe base, I use one of my favorite time-saving sauces, pesto without pine nuts, which is an easy pesto recipe that’s more affordable than traditional pesto (my dairy free nut free pesto is also a great option!).
This simple pesto pasta is then taken to the next level with canned tuna, a no-cook protein that adds tons of flavor and is an affordable way to add fish into your diet.
Plus, this recipe is easy to customize since you serve the pesto tuna on top of the pesto pasta, so it’s easy to leave off if someone doesn’t want tuna.
Visual Guide: How to Make Tuna Pesto Pasta
Timesaving Tips & Tricks
Saving time in the kitchen is my jam, which is why I’m a big fan of multitasking with meals.
You make the pesto while the pasta is cooking which saves tons of time, but if you want to make this recipe even easier, you can use store-bought pesto (you will just need about 1 ½ cups of pesto)
Make It Gluten Free + Dairy Free
To make this dish gluten free, replace the pasta with your favorite gluten free pasta. For a dairy-free version, replace the parmesan cheese with dairy free parmesan cheese or use my dairy free nut free pesto.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Garlic: I recommend using whole garlic cloves versus pre-minced garlic as the flavor will be a lot better. I do not recommend granulated garlic.
Fresh basil: Fresh basil is essential in this recipe. You could swap 1 cup of fresh spinach or fresh parsley for 1 cup of fresh basil.
Blanched almonds: Blanched almonds are almonds with their skins removed, and they have a sweet flavor similar to pine nuts, but are much easier to find. Roasted almonds with skins can be used, but the sauce will be a bit more brown. You can also use walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds.
Parmesan: Try to use freshly grated parmesan if you can. Pecorino Romano is also a good substitute. Use a dairy free parmesan for a dairy free version.
Kosher salt: Look for kosher salt with the regular iodized salt at the grocery store (it has a subtler flavor). Use less iodized salt if that’s what you have on hand.
Extra virgin olive oil: I highly recommend using extra virgin olive oil since the olive oil is a pronounced flavor in this recipe
Pasta: Any pasta will work for this recipe. For a gluten free version, use gluten free pasta.
Tuna: I use canned tuna packed in oil (drained) since it has a bit more flavor, but you can use tuna packed in water (drained).
Tuna pesto pasta is a delicious and complete meal on its own with lots of protein from the tuna and vegetables from the basil.
However, if you want to bulk up veggies, you can toss the pasta with 1-2 cups of spinach or arugula, diced cherry tomatoes, diced and drained artichoke hearts.
How to Store & Freeze
Tuna pesto pasta keeps well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days, in a sealed container.
Note that the sauce separates when cooled. To reheat, add a splash of water and stir until smooth again
This Recipe is…
Tuna Pesto Pasta
For the Homemade Pesto
- 3 cloves garlic
- 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1 cup blanched almonds
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the Tuna Pesto Pasta
- 12 ounces pasta, any shape
- 2 cans oil packed tuna
Optional Serving Suggestions
- Red pepper flakes
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a strong boil.
- And the pasta and stir to avoid sticking.
Make the Pesto
- While the pasta is cooking, add the lid to the food processor, turn to high, then drop in the garlic cloves to finely mince. Remove the lid and scrape the sides.
- Add the basil leaves and pulse several times until coarsely chopped.
- Add the cheese, salt, and pepper, and pulse until just combined. Scrape down the sides.
- Turn the food processor to low, then slowly stream in the olive oil until just combined.
Make the Tuna Pesto Pasta
- When the pasta is just cooked though and slightly al dente, carefully remove 1 cup of cooking water and set aside.
- Drain the pasta. Do not rinse.
- Add the pasta back to the pan. Pour over 1 cup pesto, and ¼ cup pasta water, tossing to combine. Add additional pesto if a stronger flavor is desired, or additional pasta water to thin the pesto and coat the pasta.
- Lightly drain the tuna and add to a medium bowl along with ¼ -½ cup pesto, tossing lightly with a fork to break up the tuna and combine it with the pesto.
- Serve the pasta with the pesto tuna on top.