pressure cooker pasta with tuna and capers

Everyone in Italy cooks, knows and loves this pasta recipe but it’s almost unknown in America – where tuna and pasta typically bring visions of  a cold pasta salad and not the cozy family meal that this recipe will bring you.

This all-pantry recipe comes together in minutes and pressure cooks in less time than it takes to bring a big pot of water to a boil. This recipe is particularly useful when coming back from a long trip (say a month and a half in America) with lots of hungry tummies in tow that are demanding dinner before you’ve had a chance to shop. Or say… update a cookbook manuscript, plan two birthday parties, help the in-laws buy a house, participate in the school’s International night and keep a pressure cooker recipe website going.

In short, this pressure cooker pasta is a lifesaver if you’re out of time and ingredients.

Replace fresh garlic with powdered, in a pinch, but getting your hands on a wrinkled garlic clove in the back corner of the veggie drawer makes the dish exponentially better.

If you think you don’t like tuna, you haven’t been buying the right kind.  Cheap cans with brown shriveled tuna and the occasional gray fish scale that are half vegetable oil are not what you should use in this recipe.  High-quality canned tuna should be plump, lightly colored with just a hint of pink and in big chunks that flake apart.

For best results use high-quality dolphin-safe tuna packed in olive oil – don’t forget to buy a few extra cans to stow in the pantry for the next dinner emergency.

Pressure Cooker Accessories Pr. Cook Time Pr. Level Open
6 L or larger None 3-4 min. Low(1) Normal

4.9 from 8 reviews
Pressure Cooked Pasta with Tuna and Capers (pasta al tonno) - one pot meal
Recipe type: Pressure Cooker
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 anchovies
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 16 oz (500g) fusilli pasta
  • 2 5.5oz (160g) cans Tuna packed in olive oil
  • water to cover
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  1. In the pre-heated pressure cooker on medium heat add the oil, garlic and anchovies. Saute' until the anchovies begin to disintegrate and the garlic cloves are just starting to turn golden.
  2. Add the tomato puree and salt and mix together.
  3. Pour in the un-cooked pasta, and the contents of one tuna can (5 oz) mixing to coat the dry pasta evenly.
  4. Flatten the pasta in an even layer and pour in just enough water to cover.
  5. Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker. Turn the heat up to high and when the cooker reaches pressure, lower to the heat to the minimum required by the cooker to maintain pressure. Cook for 3 minutes (or the recommended time) at LOW pressure.
  6. When time is up, open the cooker by releasing the pressure.
  7. Mix in the last 5oz of tuna and sprinkle with capers before serving.

magefesa practika plus pressure cooker

PRESSURE COOKER pasta with tuna and caper sauce!


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  1. This recipe looks delicious! I really would like to try it but I only have a ‘high’ pressure cooker, with just one setting. Can I modify the recipe somehow to account for that? Just bringing it up to pressure for two minutes instead of 4 maybe? I’m really new to this whole ‘pressure cooking’ thing so maybe there’s something I don’t know…

    1. You’ve got the right idea. Reducing the cooking time is the right way to go if you cannot reduce the pressure. Try this recipe for 3 minutes at high pressure and see if you like the result!



      1. Is there a standard chart to which I can refer for general pressure/cooking time relationships?

        1. Pasta is tricky, but other ingredients are more predictable. Click on the link at the top of the page (under the hip pressure cooking logo) called “cooking times”.

          Or follow this link:



  2. This was my second attempt at pressure cooking and i failed miserably! I released the pressure after 3 minutes but it wasnt cooked, so i returned to heat and bought it back to pressure for another 3 minutes but ended up with a burnt bottom and pasta was still undercooked! Does this sound like not enough water?

    I just got my cooker yesterday and was feeling very uninspired with everything i found on the web untill i found your sight which has filled me with hope … i just obviously have to get the hang of it!

    1. Welcome stephnz! Pasta and sauce recipes in the pressure cooker are a little advanced for someone who JUST started pressure cooking as you have.

      Thankfully, I have a way for you to become more familiar with your pressure cooker. Under the “learn to” menu at the top of the page is a beginner pressure cooking course (shortcut: It’s designed to get you to know your pressure cooker, then with simple can’t-fail recipes that explain everything you need to know about your pressure cooker.

      After the beginner check-list, the first recipe is boiled potatoes. You CANNOT fail there. Promise.



    2. Hello Stephnz,

      In my experience, I have had to keep stirring the dish until it reaches boiling and then lock the lid down to avoid burnt bottoms. If you have released the pressure and have the lid off, it might be a good time to give everything a good stir.

  3. Thanks Laura! I have been reading through the beginner section this afternoon and am just about to try the potatoes now! I’m realising i jumped in at the deep end a little bit … i just got lucky when my first attempt was a rissoto that turned out amazingly and i got over confident! Back to basics now! Your creme caramel recipe might just have to wait!

    1. You can make the flans, just read the Bain Marie lesson carefully before starting.

      This recipe flirts with the minimum water requirements of the pressure cooker so it’s a tricky method. BTW, what kind of pressure cooker do you have and, if it’s stovetop, what kind of cooktop are you using it on?



      P.S. Great advice from Pentaquark – the cooker can scorch WHILE it’s reaching pressure but not during. So bringing the contents to a boil without the lid is a great way to ensure the cooker will reach pressure quickly and not have a chance to even THINK about burning.

  4. Hi
    New to the site today. Have had a pc for years but only use it for Christmas puddings and stews! Saw this recipe and got really excited, went straight out and bought the ingredients and cooked it tonight. Husband (a pasta fanatic) was really impressed, worked perfectly although large portions! Will make again with variations as the method was perfect. Well done and look forward to tring the other recipes

    1. So glad to read that your pasta-fanatic husband was impressed!

      You can halve the recipe and the cooking time and liquid (water to cover) remain the same. That’s the beauty of this method – it will work in any size and shape cooker and always perfectly cook the pasta.

      Many of my Italian friends that have introduced to this technique now do not cook their short pasta any other way!



  5. I’ve made this twice and now feel capable of providing some guidance (at least for the US audience).

    Here in the US, we’re constantly exposed to flavorings, flavor “enhancers”, etc. we’re accustomed to bold flavors and…this recipe doesn’t deliver that. It’s not the fault of the recipe but rather that we have different expectations. Here is what I did (and comments):

    I increased the garlic from one clove to 3. And they were large cloves. I chopped them roughly to increase surface area.

    The anchovies are overwhelmingly important to this dish. If you don’t use them now, you should. They provide an excellent “background” flavor that can’t be duplicated any other way. And, they don’t taste like anchovies in the finished dish.

    US tomato sauce has salt added unless it specifies otherwise; I’ve never seen an Italian brand in the US that lists salt as an ingredient. Be mindful of this before adding salt.

    Like a previous poster mentioned, I experienced scorching on my first attempt (I use an induction cooktop). The second time, I brought the ingredients to boiling, while stirring, and then put the PC lid on. Problem solved.

    In my experience, when Italians think the pasta is cooked Americans think it’s still raw. I cooked the pasta for twice the time stated and still wanted it cooked further. The link that shows cook time as half the stated on the package should be followed (or more): US cook times are higher than those stated on pasta packages in Italy.

    I believe that pasta sauces in Italy are called “condiments”. In other words, they are a light addition to enhance the pasta, which is the main event. Here in the US, it’s the opposite. So, this recipe, for me, turned out to be bland. By adding a generous amount of parmesan (not the green can kind!!), and upping the amount of capers, I turned out a dish that my family enjoyed. It was certainly not true to the original, but was altered to suit our Midwestern-US origins.

    Great blog. Keep it up!

    1. Great tips! I come to the U.S. for one month each summer and since this is a family favorite I’ve made it several times with the local ingredients. I want to emphasize the use of tuna in oil – even if it’s not olive oil – because the flavor will be MUCH improved.

      I made this recipe with Whole Foods tuna in water and the dish was nearly tasteless. Then, I tried this with Tuna in Olive Oil that I found at a nearby Trader Joe’s and… WOW what a difference in flavor!

      I support your suggestion to use a good Italian tomato puree – one that does not contain corn syrup, sugar or salt. The only ingredient should be tomatoes.

      While in Toronto (Canada) to film an infomercial the grocery store that I was taken to by the producers did not have any of these kinds of tomato puree’s. However, I did find tomato paste with nothing but tomatoes. Tomato paste is just double or triple concentrate of tomato puree with all of the water evaporated. I just diluted it to the right consistency before recording and the pasta dish did not only come out perfect – when the cameras stopped rolling everyone on the set went thought it was delicious, too!



      1. Hi Laura

        I had two quick questions:

        When you say tomato purée, do you mean passata? This is a kind of blended and sieved tomato mixture that is widely available in the UK and it generally has no other ingredients but tomato. What we Brits understand by tomato purée is the kind of concentrate you describe that was available in Canada and it comes in a tube usually. Two cups of that would be a lot indeed…

        And when you say to put the contents of the first tuna can into the pot, do you mean to include the oil?

        Very grateful in advance for your comments before I try this one!

        Greetings from London.

        1. Yes puree (as it’s called in US) is equivalent to passata and Americans call the concentrated tomato product tomato paste. The way the recipe is written you drain the oil from one can and use the oil from the other. You can keep both or drain both – according to your dietary needs. It will still taste good! : )



          1. Thanks! One further question. Does this work for the Instant Pot? Mine doesn’t have a low/high pressure setting… :S

            1. Which Instant Pot model do you have? All of them, except for LUX have a “high” and “low” pressure. Yes, it works. Make sure to bring the sauce to a boil before stirring in the pasta and follow the directions for electric pressure cookers (extra 1/2 cup of water).



    2. I made this as written and I loved the flavors and the fact that the pasta was al dente, so I would recommend that users use their own judgement.

  6. Oh, yes, ABSOLUTELY use tuna packed in olive oil. I never use water-packed because it is indeed tasteless (and also mealy and dry). The Trader Joe’s brand is very good and there is a brand called Genova that is much more widely available.

  7. Made this for the first time tonight in my electric pressure cooker after a hectic long weekend. Didn’t have the exact components so instead I used tomato and basil pasta sauce, large tinned spring water tuna and large seashell pasta. It took a bit longer to cook with the seashell pasta. I also got distracted when I turned on the cooker and instead cooked it on high for 5mins, pasta wasn’t cooked enough so put it back on for another 5 and it was good to go! I also added more garlic and an onion, didn’t add the capers as I didn’t have any. Next time though I would add more anchovies. My fiancé was very impressed I was able to throw so tasty together so quickly. Makes for a nice change from mushroom risotto :) Will be stocking up on more tuna and pasta purée tomorrow

    Thank you!

  8. I have been wanting to make this recipe for awhile, but knew it wouldn’t be the same without the anchovies, so had to wait until I could get some at the store. I finally had a chance to make it the other day, and I thought it was great! Great flavor, excellent texture. I was worried that the pasta would get gummy, but it was perfectly al dente. I thought it had just enough of everything – granted, I tend to eyeball measurements rather than measure exactly, so I can’t say that I used exactly what the recipe called for – but I thought it was wonderful and didn’t have to add anything to it once it was done! I couldn’t find tomato puree, but subbed no salt added tomato sauce instead, and it worked well. I worried that it may be a little runny, but it was perfect. So excited to try more recipes! Just ordered your new cookbook, too. Can’t wait for September to get here now!

  9. To the person with the high pressure only cooker, its really tricky to time things like pasta or some veggies that cook really fast. At 15# pressure they cook extremely fast. Once pressure is reached, it is as Laura suggests only like 3 minutes. Adjust from there, more or less time according to your idea of doneness. And personally I prefer pasta cooked in open pot rather than PC. Pasta doesnt really take that much time even without PC.

    To the person burning/scorching stuff. The way I cook most grains, beans, etc in pressure cooker is to put in the bottom trivet thingie, add about inch water, then set in a stainless steel bowl. Put the the actual food you are cooking in this bowl. For every cup of grain or beans add one and half cup water to the stainless steel bowl. Cook for appropriate amount time. For long grain brown rice, its around 12 minute at 15#. I usually cook one cup brown rice, one cup millet, and one cup lentils together and couple whole potatoes. They all cook in same time.

    This results in near perfect “fluffy” rice/millet/lentils with no water left in stainless pan, but still water in the bottom of pressure cooker. Other grains similar with no scorching or other problems.

    I would like to take credit for this great technique, but saw it on youtube sometime back by some old survivalist guy using his $5 thrift store PC. Use this technique and you can cook perfect rice in even cheapest lightest gauge PC with no worry of scorching or running out of water.

  10. Delicious! This recipe worked great for me. I followed it pretty much to the letter, but my package of pasta was only 12 oz, not 16 oz. Next time I might reduce the amount of tomato puree a little bit to compensate. The sauce was a little heavy in relation to the amount of pasta. But the pasta was cooked perfectly and the flavor was great. So easy.

    1. I’m glad it worked out for you, Maggie! I agree that you should reduce a little bit of the tomato sauce – however pressure cooked pasta has a STRONG tomato flavor since it absorbs the sauce not just water.

      If you get a chance, please come back to leave a rating.



    2. Here’s my rating.

  11. This has become a staple in our household. I cannot believe I haven’t rated it yet. Thanks for reminding me @Maggie. FWIW I make half a pack of pasta (250g – 8oz) at a time and use half a bottle of passata. I also toss in some kalamata olives at the end too.

    1. That sounds great. I love the saltiness of the capers. The kalamata olives would be delicious, almost like a puttanesca sauce. Thanks for the idea. I’m going to be making this a lot.

  12. We also love this and will try adding the olives as a change. But a question, I have 3 WMF cookers that I use following Laura’s reviews which I really like. But as we have moved to house with an induction hob, it is difficult to get the low pressure correct. I was thinking of an Instant Pot. How would this recipe work in it? Any thoughts?

    1. Hi LMCFood! : ) I make a similar pasta with the Instant Pot in the video here – make sure to get the Instant Pot model with high AND low pressure (not the LUX).

      I too have quite a bit of difficulty regulating stovetops on induction – although the bases are induction-compatible the valves were not exactly designed to work at such fast heat-ups. I bet you already read this, but just in case you haven’t….



    2. My pc is an Instant Pot, the only pc I’ve ever had or used. It does have high and low pressure settings. It worked great for me for this recipe. So far, everything I’ve tried with it has been a success.

      1. Thanks for sharing your experience Maggie! If you get a chance, please come back to leave a rating for the recipe.



  13. Hi Laura, I just finished making this recipe as a mum of two under 4 and here is what I found. Firstly I use a stove top PC with gas. It turned out delicious! I followed exactly at first but I did let the liquid come up to heat, gave it one more good stir then popped on the lid and followed exactly, perfect outcome. My variation was using roasted garlic, 4 cloves ( I always have some in the fridge from the weekend), once cooked I stored through grated cheddar about 40-60 grams, a table spoon of double cream then sliced mushrooms, put it all into smaller remikans and baked for 15 mins on 180c with some more cheese on top. This was the quickest and most delicious pasta bake ever! Thank you x

    1. Thanks for sharing your variation of this recipe, Lisa. I never would have thought of combining mushrooms with tuna – interesting!



  14. brilliant! I more or less followed the recipe, except that:
    I used whole wheat fusilli pasta 500g, my jar of tomato passata was 1.5cup and I used 3 cloves of garlic which I sautéed like the recipe said along with some pepperoncini flakes in the olive oil for a nice spicy kick. I also had some fresh basil leaves,, I put half of a bunch raw in the beginning prior to pressuring, then the other half I julienned and tossed in with the capers and the rest of the tuna. I used the pink Rio Mare tuna in oil.

    the package said 9 minutes. I pulled out after 4.5 minutes and the pasta came out perfectly al dente.

    I have a cheap t-fal pressure cooker, not a fancy programmable one.

    I was done dinner and we were eating in 15 minutes, from start to finish!



  15. Fantastic! I cooked in a 3L pressure cooker, eyeballed the proportions, brought to a boil before putting on lid (scared of scorching Came out beautiful! Nice to have a pantry ready meal.Thank you!

    1. Uma, that’s exactly how the recipe is supposed to work. So glad you enjoyed it!!



  16. I love pasta. I tried it. Its delicious. Your recipes are superb. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Do you think this would taste ok if I used canned sardines in oil?

    1. In place of the tuna or in place of the anchovies?



      1. in place of the tuna

  18. I made this in my instant pot last night because it sounded wonderful plus I had all the necessary ingredients. It was delicious though I did increased the cloves of garlic to 5, anchovies to 5 fillets, added more capers (but decreased the salt added) and also seasoned with basil and red pepper flakes. The quantity of the other ingredients remained the same. I used whole wheat fusilli put kept the cooking time the same.
    I do have one question. Are you suppose to drain the olive oil from the cans of tuna? Since I was not certain, I drained one can but not the other.

  19. Love, love, love this recipe.
    Gets me out of many a tight spot, but the children request it as well. They prefer it without the capers, but I like it more with. I use the general vibe to make some other tomato based pasta as well. An absolute wonder.

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