This recipe is, believe it or not, an Italian classic. It’s not an Italian classic in the way tortellini or lasagna are where you would make them for Christmas dinner, but this is classic Italian daily fare where Giovanni comes home from the factory for lunch and Maria prepares him a big old bowl of spaghetti. That kind of classic Italian fare.

I’ve doctored the classic recipe to my American-girl-living-in-Italy-who-misses-Mexican-food needs and added the Chili pepper to make a Tuna Arrabbiata sauce.

  • Yield: 2 servings
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 25 Minutes
  • Active: 10 Minutes

Ingredients (8)

  • 200 grams of spaghetti (de cecco, if you have it on hand is good)
  • A small can of tuna (packed in olive oil is best)
  • 1 clove of garlic (not sliced, just squished with the back of the knife)
  • 1/2 of a small/med sized onion (chopped)
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1 can of diced plum tomatoes, without basil and other herbs if you can find it
  • 1 tbs Olive Oil (less if you use tuna packed in oil)
  • Chopped Parsley (optional)


  1. Drain the tuna of water or oil. If it is packed it water, mash it up in a bowl with a teaspoon of olive oil, if you don’t have olive oil just mash it up with some regular oil.
  2. Fill up a big pot with water and a 1/2-1 teaspoon of salt. I use coarse see salt and normally add about a teaspoon, but with fine salt the ratio tends to be different. Add the salt, it makes a big difference and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Saltless pasta is like a cake with no sugar—-there is no point in eating it. Bring it to a boil.
  3. In a sauce pan, sautee the garlic in olive oil on low heat until it is golden, but not burnt. Never burn the garlic.
  4. Add the chopped onion and sautee until transparent.
  5. Add the mashed up tuna and sautee for a couple of minutes.
  6. Add the can of tomatoes and mix it all up and cook on medium heat until it boils and then on low heat until the tomatoes are cooked. They are cooked when they are sweet. If it starts to get dry, add some water. Mix in the cayenne pepper to taste.
  7. About 2 or 3 minutes after the tomatoes have started cooking and the water is already boiling, add the pasta. Give it a stir after a couple of minutes to make sure it isn’t sticking to the pan. About the time on the package: about 3 minutes before the stated time, try the pasta and do this about every minute for then on. The time given is a guideline that normally leads to squishy, overcooked pasta, especially if you buy garbage pasta. Only buy pasta from italian companies. De Cecco and La Molisana are good if you can find them, Barilla is acceptable if you are on a budget. The pasta and how you cook it is just as important as the sauce. The difference in pasta is due to how it is dried; fast dried “cheap” pasta is too smooth to “hold” the sauce (really, the micro bumps on good pasta make a huge difference in texture) and the fast drying process changes the structure of the starches and the pasta is less resistant and will break easily and not stay “al dente”
  8. When the pasta is al dente, even a bit too al dente, take a little cupful of water out of the pot and set aside. Drain the pasta. DO NOT RINSE. Dump the pasta back in the pot and add the sauce. If your pasta is still too al dente, like it should be, and the sauce is fairly liquidy, turn up the heat and let it cook in the sauce so that the pasta absorbs some of the sauce. If the sauce is a bit dry, add some of the cooking water. This gives it a nice “restaurant” flavor. If you don’t have time, cook the pasta until it is al dente or however you like it and add the sauce, mix it up and it’s ready to eat!
  9. Serve with chopped parsley served on top.