This creamy tuna pasta recipe with leek is a healthy, easy and comforting pasta dish. The combination of savoury tuna, sweet leeks and a creamy zesty sauce topped with parmesan shavings makes this dish fresh, light and great for a light and quick lunch or an easy weeknight dinner option.
Leeks are a wonderful ingredient to flavour up many dishes. Mostly used in stews and soup, leek works really well in dishes like quiche or pasta or just as a side dish with a cheese or butter sauce. Leeks are part of the onion and scallion family but more subtle in flavour with a mildly sweet taste after braising.
For this recipe I have used canned tuna which goes really well with both pasta and leek. Keep in mind that all the cooking times and the method described in this recipe is for the canned version and will be completely different when using fresh tuna.
Which ingredients to use
This tuna pasta recipe comes together really quick with just a few pantry-friendly ingredients.
- Pasta: I have used fusilli pasta. Use any pasta you like or have in your pantry.
- Leeks: Leeks are part of the onion and scallion family but more subtle and mild in flavour with a hint of sweetness when cooked. Only use the white and light green part of the leek. Follow the steps further in this recipe for instructions on how to cut and clean leeks.
- Tuna: I prefer to use canned tuna in brine for cooking. Feel free to use canned tuna in oil, but rather drain the oil from the can otherwise the dish will become too oily.
- Cream: I usually use light cream for cooking with a fat percentage of 20%.
- Lemon: Don’t skip the lemon in this tuna recipe as it will provide the necessary zest and tanginess to this dish. Use fresh lemon as we will use both the lemon juice and lemon zest to optimise the flavours.
- Aromatics: This dish is loaded with aromatics. I have used garlic, dried basil and oregano, nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper. I decided to use dried herbs, but feel free to use fresh basil and oregano.
How to clean leeks
Leeks need to be washed thoroughly before using since a lot of dirt and grit gets stuck in between the thick green layers. A quick rinse under cold streaming water will not do the job, so follow these easy steps:
- Remove the root of the vegetable.
- Cut off most of the thicker green part.
- Cut the leek in half lengthwise starting from the middle of the white part up to the green.
- Turn the leek a quarter and repeat this step. You will end up with the bottom white part of the vegetable still intact and from the middle up cut in 4.
- Rinse properly under cold running water while opening the leaves until all the grit is removed.
- Dry and cut into fine rings.
How to make leek and tuna pasta
Note: All the exact quantities of the ingredients can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Cook the pasta:
Start by boiling the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, since every pasta has a different cooking time. Before draining the water from the pasta, keep half a cup of pasta water aside to use for the sauce. The starch in the pasta water will make the sauce thicker and richer. While the pasta is cooking, you can start preparing the tuna and leek sauce.
- Cut the leeks:
Follow the steps above to clean the leeks. We will use the white and the light green part of the vegetable for cooking. Cut in fine rings.
- Prepare the leek and tuna sauce:
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the minced garlic and chopped leeks. Gently cook on medium-low heat. Make sure to not brown them, they need to ‘sweat’ on medium-low heat until softened. Add the drained tuna and all the spices and herbs and stir well. Cook together for a few minutes.
Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, cream and pasta cooking water and mix well. Leave to cook for a few minutes while stirring frequently. When the sauce is ready, add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss well. Serve immediately with parmesan shavings and parsley.
Useful tips and tricks
- Cook the pasta al dente: This means that the pasta should still have a firm bite. The best way to know is to give it a taste nearly at the end of the cooking time and decide if it is cooked through but has not gotten too soft.
- How to cook pasta: The best way to cook pasta is to keep this ratio in mind: 10 – 100 – 1000, meaning 10 grams of salt for 100 grams of pasta for 1000 ml of water. So use enough salt and enough water.
- Don’t use oil: Most people add a dash of oil to the cooking water for the pasta. Don’t, as it is not necessary. As soon as the pasta is cooked it will be mixed in to the sauce, so it won’t stick together.
- Don’t discard the thick green part of the leeks: Don’t throw the thick green leaves of the leek away. We won’t use them for this dish as they need much longer to cook but you can use them for making broth another time. If I don’t use them immediately, I freeze them for later. Just properly wash and dry the leaves then put them in a plastic freezer bag.
How to serve this dish?
Just before serving, garnish with some parmesan shavings and chopped fresh parsley or basil. It can be served as a lunch dish or as a quick and easy weeknight dinner meal. Serve this creamy tuna pasta with leek and lemon together with a fresh garden salad topped with a tangy honey mustard dressing. Or consider serving some delicious oven-roasted garlic bread on the side.
Interested in other light meal recipes?
- Creamy smoked trout pasta with endives
- Ham and asparagus quiche
- Gorgonzola and pear salad
- Carrot and ginger soup
- Caprese salad with burrata cheese
Creamy tuna pasta with leek
- 9 ounces (or 250 grams) pasta
- 2 large leeks (2 cups) only the white, cut in fine rings
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can tuna (7 ounces or 195 grams) drained
- 1 cup (or 250 ml) cream light
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest approximately zest of ½ a lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice approximately juice of ½ a lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese shavings
- fresh parsley roughly chopped
- Bring water to a boil in a large cooking pot and add a tablespoon of salt. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Depending on the pasta, it will be around 10 minutes. Drain the water from the pasta. Keep a ½ cup (100 ml) of pasta water for later.
- Wash the leeks thoroughly and cut in fine rings. Peel and mince the garlic. Drain the liquid from the canned tuna.
- Heat the olive oil in a large cooking pan on medium-low heat. Add the leek and garlic and gently cook for 4-5 minutes while stirring frequently until the leeks start to soften.
- Add the flaked tuna, basil, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper and fry for 2 minutes. Add the cream, lemon zest, lemon juice and the ½ cup of pasta water and leave to cook for 4 minutes.
- Mix the cooked pasta with the creamy tuna and leek sauce and serve immediately. Garnish with parmezan cheese shavings and parsley.
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