pasta with tuna and tomatoes

Pasta with Tuna & Tomatoes . $5.60

When the temperatures are soaring and the tomatoes are coming in, its nice to serve a simple pasta dish and not heat up the oven. This one is meant to be warm or room temperature as a kind of pasta salad, but it is good the next day, too, chilled.

Pasta with Tuna & Tomatoes
Pasta with Tuna & Tomatoes

The kids are always looking for inexpensive dishes that are easy to make and I love it when I can show them a classic like this – a dish that is so simple, so good. Start the pasta water as you dice the onion, prepare the garlic, cut the tomatoes and open the cans. Start the oil as you put in the pasta and quickly cook the veggies as the pasta cooks. I used angel hair pasta and dinner was on the table in under 10 minutes.

There are a zillion ways to vary this dish. Sans tuna, it is a fantastic vegetarian dinner. It can easily be taken in a different direction with the addition of thinly sliced or ribboned zucchini or summer squash, or really almost any vegetable of your choice. While these vegetables are sautéed, the same recipe can be made with oven roasted veggies.

Personally, I don’t think you could go wrong with a few briny olives, and a bit of white or red wine vinegar passed at the table adds a bit of brightness.

Recipe:  Pasta with Tuna and Tomatoes

6 servings

  • 1/2 to 1 pound pasta
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small or 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tuna, drained
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved (I often add more)
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed, halved and drained
  • 3/4 teaspoon thyme, basil or herb of choice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a 14-inch skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the cherry tomatoes and thyme or basil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta, the tuna, artichokes and the parsley. Toss until all the ingredients are coated, adding a little pasta water, if needed, to thicken the sauce.  It should be creamy.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm or at room temperature. Pass red or white wine vinegar as desired.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

  • Pasta: I’ve hardly paid for any pasta in years, I simply buy on sale with a coupon, especially for the higher end pastas. A great sale price for a pound is about 88 cents a pound, but most coupons are for 50 cents to a dollar. Since not every one is a couponer, I’ll just count the cost as 50 cents.
  • Cherry or Grape Tomatoes: There is not a doubt that these specialty tomatoes cost more than a plain old tomato at the store, but there are some strategies to finding them at a great price. Since they come packaged, look for coupons (check your coupon site or the producer’s site) and they regularly go on sale in my area – often with a store coupon. (Yes, you can use both.) Check for great sales around any holiday, when they often go for half the regular sales price. Cut them using my “Tip of the Day” from my White Bean Ragout post. Simply place the lid of a yogurt, sour cream container, etc. upside down (lip up) on the counter, fill with whatever round objects you want to cut, place another lid lip down, press gently but firmly and slice horizontally through the center. $3.00.
  • Tuna:  Lent is a great time to buy canned fish, especially tuna.  Coupons and sales abound.  If you miss the season, a “surprise” place to find budget tuna fish?  Your local pharmacy, especially Walgreens often has little coupons in their ads, and CVS, I’ve noticed, has great sales and sometimes coupons from their Coupon Spitter Outer Machine.  While I can get Tuna for free with a coupon during Lent now and then, I think about 68 cents is a good sales price. (Lent in 2014 is March 5th to April 19th) Cost 68 cents.
  • Artichoke Hearts:  They’re never really cheap, but do go on sale, often unadvertised. I scan for them when I’m shopping and pick them up for $1.99 a can, usually about $1.00 off in my area. Aldi’s often has them less than the regular grocery store. Look for artichoke hearts, also, where your store discounts items for immediate sale. Cost $1.00.
  • Fresh Herbs: I grow my own in the garden, and also keep a few ones I often use on the back steps in a strawberry pot. When winter comes, I bring indoors. Indoors is not always ideal for herb growing, but since a plant costs about the same as a bunch, there’s really no loss, even if it dies off; just snip and dry. Cost: nominal.
  • Garlic:  I look for a price of about $2.99 a pound, or about 54 cents a head. Check the pricing of the bulk per pound as opposed to the packaged. I never really find it on sale, but I use so much, I pay attention and buy a bit more when I see the price is lower.  Cost for 4 cloves, around 10 cents.
  • Olive Oil: I have a little strategy for buying olive oil – using coupons and sales to lower the price, so click on the link. I also look for new brands and stock up – heavy competition means that when a new brand comes to the store, it is often at a fantastic price for a few weeks, then settles in at around the same price as the others. I think it’s important to use olive oil as opposed to many others – the health benefits outweigh a bit more extra cost, and it can be had at a very reasonable price. I also like the fact that Olive oil contains no hidden trans fats like Canola or Vegetable oil. Cost for this recipe: 32 cents.

Cooking & Kitchen Hacks:

Easily Cut Cherry Tomatoes, Grapes, Olives, Etc. Simply place the lid of a yogurt, sour cream container, etc. upside down (lip up) on the counter, fill with whatever round objects you want to cut, place another lid lip down, press gently but firmly and slice horizontally through the center.

Slice round objects between two lids! Run knife horizontally thru center..
Slice round objects between two lids! Run knife horizontally thru center..


Per Serving: 414 Calories; 11g Fat (23.3% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 61g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 108mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 4 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 2 Fat.

Tuna Safety

How much and what kind of Tuna is safe to eat? Check out this handy calculator by Colin Dunn of Planet Green. Hint: light tuna has much lower levels of mercury than Albacore.

Put your own Spin on it:

  • I’ve also made similar recipes with no tuna fish – if you use a higher protein pasta you could certainly make without.
  • I would imagine if the tomatoes are not good, this could be made with a quality canned tomato, and might even lower the cost a bit – but sometimes the simplest dishes rely on the highest quality ingredients you can afford; the more complex the ingredient list, the more you can “cheat” it a bit…
  • Personally, I like to double the vegetables or half the pasta for a bit healthier dish and a lower carb ratio.
  • Try varying the vegetables.
  • Oven Roast the Vegetables.

My Pay Off:

An extremely quick, easy and simple dish, perfect for a hot day.

Pasta with Tuna and Tomatoes made October 2011 for aboutt $3.10, remade and repriced August 2014 for $5.60.

Comments and discussion always welcome - tell me what you think.

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