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Twenty minute tuna, tomato and basil spaghetti

It is possible to prepare properly delicious and really rather stylish meals for your family in a short time. To do it you have to have a few killer quick recipes in your repertoire, and you must, must, must buy quality ingredients. This recipe with sub standard tomatoes or tuna, for example, would be not that nice at all. I’m not talking about spending a fortune, but simply a little bit more. Instead of cheap large insipid tomatoes, choose vine ripened cherry tomatoes (and keep them on the window sill ripening in the sun – never in the fridge!). Instead of regular tinned tuna, go for the posh tuna in jars with extra virgin olive oil. It’s really not that expensive at all, about £3.20 per jar – and you will notice the difference when using it to make pasta dishes. It stays together in big juicy chunks (almost resembling chicken) unlike than the canned variety (which I love and eat heaps of in, say, tuna mayo sandwiches).

It probably takes less than 20 minutes to make this. It’s ideal in that you put the pasta water on to heat and then start cooking the sauce as you put the spaghetti in. We make it an awful lot, I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to put it on here. Add a few dried chilli flakes if you think your kids will enjoy a kick – also, a small glass of white wine before the tomatoes adds depth. Don’t forget to reserve a mug of cooking liquor – it makes all the difference to the sauce and prevents that claggy, sticking together thing that pasta does if it’s not well sauced. If serving 4 adults simply up the spaghetti to 400g; there’s enough tuna and tomatoes to go around one more person here. My children absolutely love this pasta. I snip their spaghetti with scissors to make it more manageable.

Serves: 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

300g spaghetti
1 50g tin of anchovies in extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Handful of basil leaves
About 400g of vine ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
225g jar of albacore tuna in extra virgin olive oil (or similar, the best tuna you can afford)
Squeeze of lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil


  1. Put a large pan filled up to the top with water on to boil. Add salt. Once boiling add spaghetti and cook for 10 minutes, or until al dente. Near the end of the time, reserve a mugful of starchy cooking water
  2. Whilst your pasta is cooking, gently 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan. Peel and slice garlic. Add the garlic to the oil and let it sizzle a little for about 3 minutes – don’t let it colour or it will taste bitter. 
  3. Add the tin of anchovy fillets – along with the oil. Break them up with a wooden spoon. They will melt into the sauce so no need to chop. Sizzle for 2 more minutes. 
  4. Tip in the tomatoes and turn up the heat. Now the tuna – with oil. Toss them every now and then. Squeeze of lemon and pepper. Let it gently bubble for the rest of the pasta cooking time, i.e. 5 more minutes. 
  5. Drain the pasta (don’t forget to reserve the liquid) and tip into the sauce. Toss, adding a slosh of cooking water. Now for the basil leaves – whole. Toss some more. Keep stirring and tossing until the water and oils have pretty much been hovered up by the silken strands. Serve with nothing more than black pepper and a satisfied grin; you’re totally winning the teatime war!

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    July 15, 2016 / 4:19 pm

    We loved this. Thanks for the recipe.

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