Tuna Pesto Pasta Recipe


Are you looking for a quick weeknight meal that might even stretch into weekday lunches or a delicious and nutritious after school snack? Stop looking! Here you go!

Tuna Pesto Pasta is a quick 5-ingredient dish made up of things you might already have in your pantry or fridge. It tastes great hot or cold, and packs veggies, carbs, and protein all in a one-pot meal. It stores great and can be customized with whatever add-ins you love best. 

Ok, this may seem like a dish our parents brought to picnics when we were younger, but rest assured this recipe has a modern approach (fresh veggies! pesto!) that will please even the youngest palates. You may even find this dish becomes part of your regular rotation. (You may even bring it to picnics!) Read on for the best tuna pesto pasta recipe. 

tuna pesto pasta

How To Make Tuna Pesto Pasta

This recipe is one of my favourites and you can customize it however you want.

There are only five required ingredients! This is super easy, and you may already have one or all of these on hand.  All it takes is 5 minutes to cut your tomatoes and get everything together. Longer if you are making your own pesto. 

Cooking this will only take 20 minutes, with most of the work centered around boiling pasta and warming everything through!

In addition, you will need a pot large enough to boil your pasta and a large bowl that can hold your entire box of cooked pasta plus all your add-ons. 

Tuna Pesto Pasta Recipe

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Recipe by Laura Ritterman Course: PastaCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy


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This is not your mother’s Tuna Pesto Pasta! Check out this delish and nutritious one-pot dish–it’s only 5 ingredients and 5 steps.


  • 1 lb 1 pasta (pick your favorite)

  • 1 can 1 artichoke hearts, drained

  • 1 cup 1 halved cherry tomatoes

  • 2 cans 2 tuna

  • ¾ cup pesto (store bought or homemade)

  • Fresh lemon juice from 1-2 lemons (optional)

  • Parmesan Cheese (optional)

  • Red pepper flakes (optional)


  • Cook your pasta in a large pot according to the package directions. (Adding a pinch of salt to boiling pasta water always makes pasta more flavorful, though skip this if you are watching your sodium intake.)
  • When the pasta is done cooking, remove ½ cup of your pasta water and set aside (this is an easy step to forget). Then drain the pasta.
  • Return the pasta to the pot and put back over low heat. Stir in pesto. Add reserved pasta water a tablespoon at a time and stir until you have distributed the pesto throughout the pasta (you don’t have to use all the reserved pasta water).
  • Add halved tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and chunks of tuna and fold in gently until just combined. Warm on low until heated, and then serve!
  • You can add parmesan cheese, lemon juice, or red pepper flakes as garnish if you like.

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What Additions Can I Make to Tuna Pesto Pasta?

You can pretty much add your favorite things to this dish. Love olives? Try adding some kalamatas. Love cheese? Chunks of fresh mozzarella go beautifully with pesto. 

What If I Don’t Like Tuna?

It’s true–canned tuna isn’t for everybody. Luckily you could substitute any chunky fish for this dish. Like Salmon better? Try that. You could also use up leftover swordfish. 

Don’t like fish at all? Use chicken or sautee up some extra veggies instead. 

What Type of Tuna Should I Use?

If you have leftover grilled tuna, this recipe will be an excellent way to get another dinner out of your leftovers. 

If not, canned tuna is easy and also packs a ton of protein and nutrients. You can certainly use whatever tuna you have on hand–it’s up to your personal preference. Many cooks like to use white tuna for its fresh taste. 

Tuna packed in oil will add a little more flavor, but also slightly more fat, than tuna in water. Both options will work nicely in this dish. 

Can I Make this Tuna Pesto Pasta Recipe Vegan or Vegetarian?

Of course! You can simply keep the tuna out, or substitute cannellini or another white bean. 

You can also add chunks of Buffalo mozzarella for a little vegetarian protein. 

What Type of Pasta Should I Use?

Again, you can use whatever pasta you have on hand, or whatever is your favorite. Out shopping for a family dinner? Why not let the kids choose the pasta? They might get a kick out of picking out wagon wheels, bow ties, or crazy shapes like radiatore. 

Recipes like this with chunky veggies and sauce often work best with chunky-style pastas and those with ridges or nooks for the pesto to stick to. A few examples of these types are fusilli, orecchiette, and campanelle. 

You can also substitute any type of gluten-free pasta. 

See More: Different types of pasta

What Type of Pesto Should I Use? 

You can use any pesto you like for this dish. Most store bought basil pestos will work great. Or make your own! 

Most homemade pestos only have a few ingredients and are easier to make than you think. You can make your own pesto and freeze it in small portions (use an ice cube tray) so you can defrost whatever you need. 

Is Tuna Pesto Pasta Family-Friendly?

For sure because it’s customizable. Does one kid not like tomatoes but the other won’t eat tuna? You can work with that. Plus, this is a super easy recipe for kids to help make in the kitchen. 


Can I Store Tuna Pesto Pasta?

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. You could even portion out lunch servings when you are storing your leftovers. 

How Do I Reheat Tuna Pesto Pasta?

Reheat in the microwave for around a minute and stir thoroughly. Even easier, this dish makes a perfect cold leftover, which makes it great for quick lunches. 


Yes, we all had some type of tuna pasta salad type dish growing up, but rest assured this is anything but boring. Dress it up, add whatever you or your family like best with pesto, and you will have a super-easy and nutritious crowd-pleaser! 

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