Spaghetti with Tuna and Anchovies

Tuna and anchovie from above editThis is one of my favourite meals and one I cook whenever I’m allowed. It is one of my wife’s family recipes. We think her grandfather (who was very enthusiastic about good food and cooking) picked it up somewhere and it has evolved over several decades and family members.

I feel like it has a Sicilian flavour. There are various incarnations of pasta with tuna and anchovy available via Google and I have played with most of them and for me this is the best. It’s simplicity is one of its strengths and I don’t think adding tomatoes, capers, olives or even garlic improves the end result. As with most Italian meals, there are only a few ingredients and the better quality they are the better (that said, as a student I was more than happy with the cheapest I could find).
Anyway, it is one of my favourite dishes, is seriously cheap and very quick. It can also be made completely with tinned or dry ingredients (although fresh parsley is better and a knob of butter gives a bit more depth). As such it fuelled me all through university and comforted me after many long shifts. Fresh red chili works well but they need to be fairly punchy (Birdseye chillies are good here), but I think dried chili flakes give the best result.

Don’t be put off by the tinned tuna (I was initially I think), it really works. Fresh tuna is wasted as doesn’t cook and flake the same way.


Serves 2 (or one if you are hungry and didn’t have time for lunch)

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cooking time: as long as pasta takes to cook


  • 1 x tin of tuna (ideally in olive oil
  • 1 x tin of anchovies (in olive oil)
  • Handful of pine nuts
  • Dried chili flakes
  • Olive oil
  • Butter (optional)
  • Spaghetti
  • Good sized bunch of Fresh parsley, finely chopped (stems included)


  1. Place a large pan of salted water on to boil. Add pasta when boiling.
  2. Heat a teaspoon of chili and a handful of pinenuts in a generous glug of olive oil.
  3. Once pine nuts are just starting to colour add the anchovies and stir until they break up.
  4. Don’t allow pinenuts to go too brown, you want them lightly toasted to release the nuttiness. When they look good add the tuna and give a good stir. Reduce the heat and allow to gently cook. Add freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Once pasta is al dente drain and return to the pan. Add a knob of butter to the pasta.
  6. Mix in the tuna and anchovy mixture and the parsley.
  7. Serve with a simple rocket salad.
  8. Repeat when hungry.

Note: this has to be quite oily otherwise is doesn’t work (low fat version is not worth it). The tuna has to break up in the pan as you don’t want chunks of tinned tuna. It is more of a dressing for the pasta than a ‘sauce’.


2 thoughts on “Spaghetti with Tuna and Anchovies

  1. I’m with you on this one! Can’t beat a simple spaghetti dish as most of the time you’ve exactly what you need in the kitchen cupboard. I’ll add this one to the list. Thanks for sharing! And…. “Low fat version doesn’t work” ….. hear hear!


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