Gluten-free Pasta with Tomatoes, Tuna, Black Olives and Capers

This variation on Pasta alla Putanesca is one of my favorite pantry meals, with no chopping required except for the olives and even they can go in whole. No matter what you think about anchovies, please give them a chance. They dissolve completely with no fishy taste at all, creating a deep, rich sauce that tastes like it simmered for hours. This staple of Italian cooking is a great way to build flavor in a sauce, especially when you can’t eat garlic or onions.

Buy the anchovies packed in olive oil, in a glass jar with a lid if possible. That way you can conveniently store the remaining anchovies in the fridge. Just don’t use anchovy paste, which is saltier than the fillets and tastes a bit fishy when used in larger amounts.

I used to make something similar that had lots of onions and garlic in it, along with a jar of pasta sauce, a 1/2 cup of white wine and a can of tuna, and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to recreate it without the onions. But one day I saw a recipe for Pasta Puttanesca and realized that except for the onions, wine and tuna, it shared the same ingredients. Anchovies were the secret to a fabulous onion-free sauce and after a bit of tweaking, I came up with this version of my old stand-by. Of course my other recipe was almost certainly a take-off on Pasta Puttanesca, so here I am, back to the original via the back door, which makes me think there really isn’t anything new out there. It’s all an adaptation to fit our circumstances.

Gluten-free Pasta with Tomatoes, Tuna, Black Olives and Capers

Serves 4 to 5, adapted from Mark Bittman

1/4 cup (60 ml) garlic infused olive oil (or sauté 3 garlic cloves in oil and discard)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 to 5 ml) red pepper flakes, to taste
6 anchovy fillets, bottled in oil
2 cans (14.5 ounces or 411 grams) diced tomatoes with juice
2/3 cup (160 ml) Kalamata olives (about 30), pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons (30 ml) capers, drained
1 can (7 ounces or 198 grams) tuna, drained
Black pepper to taste
1 pound (450 grams) gluten-free spaghetti

Put a large pan of water on to boil. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and add the red pepper flakes and the anchovies. Mash the anchovies with the back of a spoon until they form a paste, then add the tomatoes and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add the spaghetti to the water as soon as it boils and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Add the olives, capers and tuna to the sauce. Break the tuna up with a fork and stir the sauce, letting it simmer until everything is hot. Add the pasta and toss until evenly coated. Season to taste with pepper and serve.

15 thoughts on “Gluten-free Pasta with Tomatoes, Tuna, Black Olives and Capers

  1. I have never tried tuna in pasta.
    Must say I am a little shy about being so “adventurous” but…
    The picture looks delicious!

  2. I love pasta, but tuna and pasta not one of my favorite – had bad experiences – tasted terrible, sure your taste lovely. Today I will do you raspberry salad .. but I couldn’t get all ingredients at my supermarket, so I have to take my chef’s hat on and improvise .. and also I think I will add chicken – need something substantial in my salad. Will come back with a post.

    • Not every flavor combination is going to be a favorite with everyone. I admit that it took me years to try this one, but once I did, I was hooked. It really has an awesome flavor. The quality of the ingredients is everything, as always. It’s getting harder to find good canned tuna – the Italian brands, canned in olive oil are usually good, but hard to find outside of a good Italian specialty store. Otherwise, Costco sells a terrific solid white Albacore packed in water.

      I can’t wait to hear what you do with the raspberry salad. Half the fun of cooking is improvising.

      • I like tuna in oil too – but I don’t know what happen with the Tuna & Pasta dish I had .. it was in San Remo – haven’t tired since – expert on tuna salads. Over here I can’t get fresh tuna at all. In Gothenburg I could at the “Fish Curch” – here is some of my salads. & – no one can do them like me. *smile – that is true.

      • Chalk it up to the vagaries of travel- not every meal is going to be amazing. And once something doesn’t sit well, it’s hard to forget the association. But your salad looks delicious, especially the dressing!

  3. I make a variation of this and it is very delicious. I just wrote a post appealing to people to not shy away from anchovies. Check out Queen Jeanne’s, Braised Lamb w/ Lemon. Thanks for this recipe.

    • Anchovies are the best- if only people knew what they were missing. Loved your recipe, by the way. I’ll bet the flavor is incredible.

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