Monday, March 3, 2014

Spaghetti Al Tonno – Nothing Fishy About This “Meat” Sauce

Spaghetti al tonno is one of my all-time favorite "go to" pasta dishes, and I hope this re-make of an old video helps make it one of yours. I did a very similar spaghetti with spicy tuna sauce for a long time ago, but never got around to doing an official Food Wishes version.

Having said that, there really is no “official” recipe, as this is the type of dish that gets made a little differently every time. Not different on purpose, mind you, but different since that’s what happens when you cook without written recipes, which by the way, is the recommended method. 

I love a classic meat sauce as much as the next half-Italian, but when I want something quick and easy for a weeknight meal, I reach for the tuna. By the time you bring a pot of water to a boil, choose a wine, and cook your pasta, the sauce should be done. What if all that sounds great, but you don’t like fish? Then, this is perfect.

As I say in the video, the taste and texture is really closer to a veal sauce, than one made with fish. Above and beyond the non-fishy flavor, this is also lower in fat and calories, in case you’re into that kind of thing. So, the next time you’re in the mood for a quick spaghetti with “meat” sauce, I hope you give this delicious pasta sauce a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Portions Spaghetti Al Tonno:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 anchovy filet
2 tablespoons capers
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine (Note: if you can’t use wine, don’t. Use a splash of stock)
3 cups crushed San Marzano tomatoes
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 tsp dried oregano
salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
7 ounces oil-packed tuna, drained (reserve and use oil!)
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
12 ounces dry spaghetti
Parmigiano-Reggiano for top


Ammon Sutherland said...

One of my favorites!

Chris K. said...

Hey Chef - just a quick note to let you know I nominated you for Saveur's food blog awards. Good luck!

Chef John said...

Thank you!

William Creighton said...

Hey Chef John

I love your videos and you crack me up all the time. Please keep it up and I hope you win the Saveur's Food blog award. New Zealand Loves you! can you please make bomboloni please! :)

From William!

Jason Smith said...


I love it when you redo the recipes. I wish you would remake them all.

Jason Smith said...

Also, I voted for you in Saveur...
You're welcome;)

Multiple times!

bdwilcox said...

So basically a puttanesca with tuna?

Ed Adams said...

Looks great. I can only imagine the Italian chefs/waiters at my local restaurant as I ask for cheese for a fish based sauce. They would either refuse to bring me cheese or ask me to leave.

Ed Adams said...

Thanks to Chris K and Jason Smith above for mentioning Saveur. I googled it, went to their website and nominated the best blog, cooking or otherwise...goodeats. Just kidding. I nominated the best online instructional, entertaining and original blog, Chef John. Thanks for teaching and inspiring.

Matthew said...

Hi Chef John, I wonder if tomato paste is needed for this recipe since you tend to add tomato paste whenever you use canned tomatoes to make a tomato sauce. Just wondering.

Berit said...

Anchovy choosing tips, please!

Mary McCoy said...

Where would you use the drained tuna oil?

Dale Meyer said...

OMG, Chef John, this was an out of the park homer! I was very leery of using tuna in Italian gravy but it was awesome! This will be my new go to recipe for spaghetti.

I could only find a 5 ounce can of tuna packed in olive oil but it worked just fine.

By the way, a 28 ounce of San Marzano tomatoes equals 3 cups of crushed tomatoes.

I used a half cup of premium beer (such as Peroni) in place of the wine, something that I often do.

You didn't state using pasta that's imported from Italy though. Italian pasta is pressed through bronze dies that makes the pasta coarse and it allows the pasta to absorb more of the gravy.

Dale Meyer said...

Previously I stated that this is my-go-to spaghetti recipe. What I meant is that it will be my quick my-go-to spaghetti recipe. Nothing can beat an original Sunday sauce recipe with beef braciola, pork braciola, Italian sausage and meatballs in Italian gravy.

Thanks for the heads up from previous posters to nominate Foodwishes for the 2014 Saveur Awards.

Note: I also nominated Gianni's North Beach for the category of regional cuisine. If you haven't visited Gianni's North Beach food blog site - I recommend that you give it a peek. I admire a lot of chefs with the exception of that jerk Gordon Ramsey.

Sandy said...

This was so good and really simple to make. I was highly skeptical of paying $6 for a teeny little jar of fancy tuna, but it really made the dish. As always, Chef John, you were right!

Jerome said...

Great idea to put cappers in the sauce. I usually put 2 anchovy filets and black olives in it. I'll try that way !

rob1n1 said...

What brand of store-bought dry pasta do you prefer? I sometimes get Barilla because it's pretty cheap, but I've also had good experiences with Bionaturae (~2-3 times the price of Barilla).

Nico Ignacio said...

im a noob but when you say capers, it means the pickled type right?

Cici19 said...

Chef John,
I am a devoted fan and this us my first post. I wanted yo tell you how absolutely delicious the pasta. I did have reservations thinking of my childhood tuna casserole...but they were quickly put to rest. Thank you for all the great recipes and encouragement to expand my cooking horizons!

Dale Meyer said...

As stated earlier, I followed this recipe to a tee and it was awesome. The second time that I made it: I stirred a 4 oz can of 'Chicken of the Sea' tuna packed in veg oil into a pint of leftover Chef John's 'Hide the little fishy' pizza sauce and it tasted just as good as the original recipe for Spaghetti al Tonno. I'm sure that pays for all of his groceries to produce his recipes and videos thus he buys all premium products. I'm saying that some lesser grades of products will suffice at times.

Mike said...

Wow! I just made this recipe. It is so simple...and quick...perfect for a weeknight. And best of all, it tastes AMAZING! Thank you Chef John!

spaghetticrunch said...

Amazing Dish, i luv eating spaghetti and luv to cook in different varieties too..

Bruno Dalmarco said...

Hey CJ,

Any particular reason for no onions, or just din't feel like adding it?

By the way, thanks for the great videos, you are certainly the best chef on YT!