Spaghetti with tuna and capers

A 10 minute Roman-esque pasta dish using things from the cupboard. Cooking the pasta in a small amount of water produces a lot of starch which will help the sauce.

Recipe makes one large serving or can be split with another.



Add spaghetti and a generous pinch of salt to a wide, shallow pan and cover with water. Put on high heat and bring to a boil. Cook for a minute or so less than the instructions for al-dente, stiring often with tongs.

While the pasta cooks, in another wide, shallow pan, add two tablespoons olive oil, put on medium high heat, and add shallots and or garlic when the oil shimmers along with a pinch of salt. Cook until fragrant and add tuna with olive oil. Break apart the tuna, then add the tomato paste and anchovy. If you use whole anchovies cook them until they disolve.

When the pasta has cooked through, but not reached al-dente, use tongs to transfer it to the tuna mixture along with some of the pasta water (2-3 tablespoons) and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Using the tongs, mix everything together letting the starchy water form an emuslsion with the olive oil coating the spaghetti. Add capers and toss together. If the sauce is breaking, add more pasta water.

Serve immediately topped with fresh ground black pepper, red chili flakes, chopped parsley.


This recipe follows the “canonical” Roman pasta dishes, where starchy water and fat (butter or olive oil) are brought together into a emulsion and tossed with pasta.

You can start with butter instead of olive oil, add a splash of white wine or vermouth (dry or blanc) and let it cook down, substitute a 1/4 cup of peas for the capers, you can even add some Pecorino Romano grated fine on microplane (but don’t tell the purists.)

If you drink, try it with dry vermouth on the rocks with soda and a slice of lime.

– ECH, 2 June 2020