CHEF Recipes

Welcome to our new series, CHEF Recipes.  Through this series, we will bring you recipes that are Cheap, Healthy, Easy, and Fast, to help you fit nutritious meals into your busy life. For this first installment, Tuna Tomato Pasta, we were inspired by summer and all of the tomatoes ripening in fields and gardens around North Carolina.

We also wanted to introduce a great trick for maximizing flavor without adding too many more calories- caramelizing onions.  Although it sounds like a fancy technique, it’s very easy and gives you rich, slightly sweet onion flavor, as the base to a delicious dish.  

How did we do meeting our CHEF criteria with this Tuna Tomato Pasta recipe? 

Cheap: Ingredients cost $9.63 without the use of a rewards card.
Healthy: Tuna is a nice lean source of protein and this dish relies on the powerful flavors of caramelized onion, garlic, and basil to build satisfying robust taste without too much added fat. 
Easy: There’s no easier fish to prepare than one that comes out of a can ready to eat!
Fast: This meal should take about half-an-hour to prepare.

Tuna Tomato Pasta (4-6 servings) 
2 Tbs. oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1- 28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes or 1.5 lbs of fresh, ripe tomatoes
2- 6 oz. cans of tuna (packed in water)
1 bunch basil
16 oz. ziti or spaghetti (white or whole wheat)
Salt and pepper to taste 

  • Fill a pot with water for the pasta and set on high to boil.  See pasta package for cooking instructions.
  • Peel and slice the onion into thin half-rounds.
  • Peel and chop the garlic coarsely.
  • Wash the basil.  Remove the leaves from the stems, stack the leaves up and chop them coarsely.
  • Open the can of tuna and press or drain the water out.
  • Open the can of tomatoes and one by one, using your hands, crush the tomatoes into chunks into a strainer or colander (if you have kids around, they would love to help on this step!). Reserve the tomato juice left in the can.
  • Cook the pasta as to the directions on the package.
  • Put a large frying or saucepan on the stove on medium-low. 
  • Add the oil. 
  • Once the oil is warm, add the onions and stir.  Allow the onions to cook slowly, for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. You should be able to hear a sizzle, but the oil shouldn’t be so hot that it splatters.
  • Once the onions are a color between golden and brown (caramelized), add the garlic and cook for another minute or 2. 
  • Add the tomatoes and heat through, cooking for another 2-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  At this point you can also add some of the reserved tomato juice from the can- add whatever amount will give you the level of sauciness that you like. You can also taste the sauce and adjust the flavor here.  If the tomatoes you have taste very acidic or sour, add a little sugar; if they’re too bland or sweet, add a squirt of lemon juice to brighten them up.
  • Add the tuna.  Break up the chunks as you stir.  Heat through, cooking for another 2-4 minutes.
  • Mix the pasta, sauce, basil together in a serving bowl or in the pasta pot and add salt and pepper to taste.   

Delicious served with a side salad or another fresh or steamed green vegetable. 

If you want to get fancy, and spend a little over $9.63, think about these additions: 

  • More basil or other fresh or dried herbs such as rosemary or oregano
  • Capers
  • Grated parmesan
  • Crushed rep pepper flakes to taste
  • Chopped roasted red peppers (available in a jar at most supermarkets)
  • Chopped olives

Per serving, if the dish is split four ways, you are looking at approximately:

570 calories
8.5 grams of fat
27 grams of protein


2 responses to “CHEF Recipes

  1. I liked the video & recipe. I am not a big fan of tuna so, I think I would try to substitute canned chicken.

  2. I tried this recipe and it was delicious! Thanks for this great recipe!

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