Among the standouts from last year’s Dietary Guidelines was the advice that Americans eat more seafood. We collectively fall woefully short of the recommended two to three weekly servings.  Part of the challenge is knowing what to buy and what to do with it once you get it home, not to mention the fact that some varieties can come with a hefty price tag. All of this is exactly why I’m writing a four-part series about how to cook fish in ways that are affordable, delicious, and doable, even for the less confident cook.

Fish Done Simply

It doesn’t get much simpler than today’s recipe, which is a spin on a traditional Nicoise salad. I’ve taken some of the core ingredients of this French classic and turned it into a main-dish pasta. The fish in the equation is canned tuna, which means it couldn’t be more convenient (included in my list of Top 10 Healthy Convenience Foods). And if you think canned tuna doesn’t have a place in quality cooking, consider the fact that even the French, gastronomes that they are, rely more on canned tuna than fresh when it comes to their beloved Nicoise (or so say my two most reliable Francofiles).

And Good for You Too

The other upside of Tuna Nicoise Pasta is that it’s a nourishing one-dish meal. Tuna provides a terrific source of affordable protein, B vitamins, and selenium. Cherry tomatoes (so good this time of year) and green beans check the veggies box, and penne pasta makes this supremely family-friendly (certainly in my house). If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, it travels well in a lunch box too.

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Tuna Nicoise Penne

This tasty dish takes everything that’s appealing about the traditional French Nicoise salad and transforms it into an easy weeknight supper. Colorful, flavorful, and healthful, this pasta is packed with protein, vegetables, and fresh basil, all with a family-friendly price tag. It can also be enjoyed room temperature as a pasta salad. 

Servings 4 servings


  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 8 ounces green beans , trimmed and snapped or cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic , thinly sliced
  • 1 heaping cup cherry tomatoes , halved
  • 2 five-ounce cans tuna , drained
  • ½ cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese for serving


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook for 8 minutes. Add the green beans to the pot and cook until the penne is done, about 2 more minutes. Scoop up ½ cup of pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and beans in a colander.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute, being sure it doesn’t brown or burn. Add the tomatoes, tuna (flaking it into pieces with a fork), olives, basil, and pasta cooking water. Stir well. Add the cooked pasta and beans, salt, and several generous grinds of black pepper. Stir well.
  3. Remove from heat and serve in bowls with Parmesan cheese to grate over the top.