Pasta Shells with Tuna, Capers, Lemon, Olives and Tomatoes - A No-cook Sauce

| January 24, 2014 | 1 Comment

Albacore tuna is one of the world’s most highly prized fish. It flourishes in temperate and tropical oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea. Canned albacore is one of the iconic pantry staples worldwide.

It’s the star ingredient in France’s famed Salade Niçoise. It accompanies students and parents alike in lunch bags as tuna salad sandwiches. Dieters lunch on it straight from a freshly opened can.

In Oregon, fishing for albacore tuna is a serious business from commercial fleets, canneries, to deep sea charters. Tuna charters currently cost as much as $250 a day because of the distance from the coast to the running fish, and is an all-day outing.

Deep sea fishing charter businesses, such as Dockside Charters in Depoe Bay, offer cleaning, filleting, and vacuum-packing services to preserve the freshness of your catch. If a tuna fishing adventure isn’t for you, let your tuna come to you. Numerous retail seafood shops along the coast offer beautiful tenderloins of fresh albacore in season, usually mid- to late summer.

Upon arriving to Oregon, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that many Pacific Northwest locals can their own tuna just as much of the rest of the world cans tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and whatever else can be preserved in a sealed jar and processed in a hot water bath.

Late last summer I joined newly transplanted Oregonians Beth and Graham Rankin to spend an afternoon canning tuna. Tina Schneider of Incredible Edibles joined us as our canning mentor. After all was said and done, I came home with 12 half pints of beautifully canned jars of albacore tuna packed in olive oil. I will publish a more detailed post of that adventure later.

Adding olive oil to the jarred tuna before processing in a hot water bath.

In the world of canned tuna there’s much more than Starkist or Bumble Bee. Water-packed tuna was all the rage a few decades ago for those eating on the lean side, but oil-packed, especially olive oil-packed, is the best choice for ultimate flavor – even if you just eat it out of the can with a fork. A multitude of tuna salads can reach ethereal heights if made with high-quality tuna, and our home-canned fish will provide the backbone for this chunky, no-cook pasta sauce.

Pasta Shells with Tuna, Capers, Lemon, Olives and Tomatoes

Adapted from a recipe on

Pasta Shells with Tuna, Capers, Lemon, Olives and Tomatoes


  1. 8-10 ounces olive oil-packed tuna, drained
  2. Zest of one medium lemon
  3. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  4. ½ pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  5. ½ pint pitted Kalamata olives, halved
  6. 1 large garlic clove, minced
  7. 2 tablespoons capers, drained or rinsed if salt-packed
  8. ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  9. ½ teaspoon salt or to taste, plus 1 tablespoon for pasta water
  10. Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  11. ¾ pound pasta shells or pasta shape of your choice
  12. Handful chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  13. 1 hard-boiled egg, grated for garnish
  14. Freshly grated Parmesan on the side


  • Place the drained tuna in a large heat-proof bowl and break apart into bite-size pieces with a fork.
  • Add the lemon zest, juice, tomatoes, olives, garlic, capers, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Toss well to combine.
  • Warm the ingredients gently by placing the heat-proof bowl over the pasta water as it heats.
  • When the water comes to a boil, remove the bowl and add about 1 tablespoon of salt to the water.
  • Cook the pasta in the water until al dente.
  • Drain the pasta and add to the bowl and toss to combine.
  • Remove to a serving dish and garnish with the parsley and grated hard-boiled egg.
  • Serve the Parmesan on the side.*

* Serious Italians would never think of combining Parmesan with fish, but hey, we’re in the New World and as Cole Porter wrote - “Anything Goes!”

Bon appétit,

— Charles


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Category: Pasta

About the Author (Author Profile)

Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities

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  1. Marlene says:

    Sounds wonderfull and I always like “easy” and fast. I shall try this recipe.

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