tuna pasta with cannellini beans etc

When dr bob was only mr bob, there was this comfort food in a box called Tuna Helper, which was some kind of cheesy pasta powder that mixed with canned tuna to produce an easy meal for noncooks. Like mr bob at the time. It was very popular, for good reason. But not especially good on nutritional grounds.

One of our friends in Rome used to have a simple Italian tuna pasta (from scratch of course!) as the go to cookout meal first course to go along with the grilled meats, which was a step up from the American product, but we were looking for protein fortified pasta to help in the cooking team weight reduction program (you need enough protein so the body does not go into starvation mode, team member will remain unnamed), so we have been working with chick pea flour based pastas. Which comes in smaller boxes (portion control) and is more expensive, but health overrides cost up to reasonable amounts.

Web recipe searching (pasta tuna cannellini) came up with a simple straightforward approach, which we largely followed the first time apart from some subsitutions required by missing ingredients, but then we had half of the result leftover and decided the successive night to avoid repetition boredom by boosting the flavor with some some additives we had available. Left over pasta often can taste even better the second time around, but in our case, the added imagination took this to a really better place. Inspiring us to document our experiment for those willing to follow our lead.


Epicurious  Day 1   Day 2 
8 oz spinach linguine  9.9 oz Banza cavatappi  
8 oz canned Italian tuna packed in oil  7.7 oz tuna in water, plus enough olive oil for sauteing  
1/4 c fresh lemon juice  juice of one lemon
2 large cloves garlic, chopped  2 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 t salt  1 t salt  
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper  1/2 t freshly ground black pepper   
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained  1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained   
1 small red onion, thinly sliced  1 large shallot (no red onion on hand), chopped  
1/2 c chopped Italian leaf parsley, plus whole leaves for gar  some fresh basil leaves (no parsley on hand), chopped  
1/2 thinly sliced lemon (optional)  lemon zest of one lemon    
     add ins: 
   1 T capers (all we had left)
     3 zucchini, chopped 
     1/2 c Kalamati olives 
     red pepper flakes to taste 
instructions (final recipe)

  1. Start the pasta water boiling and cook the pasta al dente, timing the finish for when the sauce will be ready.
  2. Meanwhile prep the onion/shallot and zucchini, parsley or basil.
  3. Saute the onion/shallot in olive oil, then add the zucchini and cook until softened.
  4. Add salt and pepper, red pepper, capers, olives, cannellini beans, lemon juice and lemon zest and tuna, breaking up the chunks, and stir about, warming up all the ingredients.
  5. Drain the pasta or fish it out with a large strainer directly from the pot and dump into the sauce.
  6. Warm a minute or two over low heat.
  7. Garnish with the fresh parsley/basil.
  8. Serve immediately. Use your imagination along the way.


  1. Tuna Helper, still around this century.
  2. Epicurious: Linguine with Italian Tuna and Cannellini Beans. Our starting point.
  3. Illustrations available.
pastatunacannellini.htm: 11-aug-2020 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]