Paccheri with fresh tuna ragu: Sicilian pasta recipe

Paccheri with Fresh Tuna Ragu: Recipe from Sicily

Fresh tuna has been fished and eaten in Sicily since the time of the Phoenicians and possibly longer! This easy to make paccheri with fresh tuna ragu is a delicious example of  the many ways Sicilians pair pasta and tuna.

paccheri pasta with fresh tuna ragu on white plate

Mezzi paccheri con ragu di tonno fresco.

Fresh tuna has been part of the Sicilian diet since Phoenician times and possible longer. This is because Atlantic Bluefin tuna migrate past Sicily every year in May and June to reach their spawning grounds in the Eastern Mediterranean and then return again after spawning. Tuna fishing has, therefore, been an important seasonal economic activity on the island for hundreds of years.

Mezzi paccheri with fresh tuna ragu on white plate

Recipes for pasta with fresh tuna.

Needless to say, there are many delicious Italian recipes for fresh tuna. The simplest is to eat it raw (tuna tartare), which I really like, or just grill it. Tuna has a darker meatier flesh than most fish and no small bones. So it’s usually sold in ‘steaks’, which are perfect on the grill. However, pasta with fresh tuna is definitely one of my favourite ways to eat this fish.

ingredients for fresh tuna ragu on white plate

As you can imagine there are also quite a few recipes for fresh tuna and pasta. Here on The Pasta Project, I have already published one called pasta all’eoliana from the Aeolian Islands. This includes capers (which the islands are famous for), olives and peperoncino. Another yummy pasta with tuna recipe is mafaldine with tuna. That one has pine nuts, raisins and sun dried tomatoes. All typical Sicilian ingredients.

sliced red onions and cubed tuna in white bowl plus halved date tomatoes and half a lemon in another white bowl.

This pasta with fresh tuna ragu.

Mezzi paccheri with fresh tuna ragu is yet another delicious way to enjoy pasta with fresh tuna Sicilian style The sauce contains fresh tuna, of course, datterini tomatoes, onions and mint! Then I grated some lemon zest over the pasta before serving.

onions with olive oil in skillet

Like so many Italian pasta recipes, this mezzi paccheri with fresh tuna ragu contains just a few fresh ingredients and doesn’t take long to make! In fact, by the time you have boiled the water and cooked the pasta, the sauce is ready. Then just mix the two together and serve! A perfect summer pasta dish!

sliced red onions and halved date tomatoes in skillet

Other main ingredients.

Tomatoes: For this recipe I used datterini (date) tomatoes from Sicily. If you can’t find the same tomatoes, you can use other small date or cherry tomatoes. It’s important that they are ripe and a deep red colour.

sliced onions, halved date tomatoes and cubed fresh tuna in skillet

Lemon: The lemon I grated for the zest was from Sorrento. Obviously not everyone can find Sorrento lemons. Just be sure that you use an organic lemon with edible peel. 

cooked fresh tuna ragu with mint leaves in skillet

Onions: In addition, the recipe I followed called for a red Tropea onion. These onions come from Calabria and are much loved by Italians as they are slightly sweet. Other types of red onions would also work well.

The pasta I used.

Finally, the pasta I used was organic mezzi paccheri from a small pasta maker in Gragnano, near Naples called Pastificio Sorrentino. Pastificio means pasta maker in Italian. This company produces 2 ranges of pasta.

organic mezzi paccheri made by Pastificio Sorrento in Gragnano

One is sold under the L’Oro di Gragnano label and is a certified Pasta di Gragnano IGP. The other is a bio range made with organic durum wheat semolina and it’s sold under the L’Anima di Gragnano label. The latter is the type of pasta we ate with our fresh tuna ragu!

cooked organic mezzi paccheri added to sauce in skillet

I actually was given this mezzi paccheri by  Pastificio Sorrentino when I was in Gagnano last month at the invitation of another pasta company called Pastificio dei Campi.

Pasta di Gragnano IGP is for pasta what DOC is for wine!

You can read all about  Gragnano and what Pasta di Gragnano IGP means in my post about my visit. But in short, Gragnano is a town located close to Naples. It’s been a centre of dried pasta production for 500 years and pasta carrying the Pasta di Gragnano IGP certification is made under strict production and ingredient quality regulations. It’s like saying DOC for wine!

organic mezzi paccheri pasta mixed with fresh tuna ragu in skillet

What is paccheri pasta?

Paccheri pasta is large pasta tubes traditionally from Naples and Gragnano. This pasta is very popular in Southern Italy and often served with seafood. Mezzi paccheri are half sized paccheri. So, not as long as the traditional tubes. I love both types.

You can use either for this recipe. I would definitely recommend the organic pasta from Pastificio Sorrentino. It was excellent.  My Sicilian hubby was really impressed by it too!

mezzi paccheri with fresh tuna ragu on white plate

If that isn’t available, look for any paccheri or mezzi paccheri with the Pasta di Gragnano  IGP  certificate. Among the companies I know who make paccheri or mezzi paccheri are Pastificio dei Campi, Di Martino, Afeltra, Liguori, Gentile and Faella. There are more, of course, plus some excellent producers of good quality pasta in other parts of Italy.  

Other pasta shapes you can use.

As an alternative to paccheri, you can also make this pasta with fresh tuna ragu using mezze maniche,  giant penne (pennoni) or even rigatoni. In Sicily they also make it with busiate. Whichever pasta you use, I’m sure you’ll love this Sicilian pasta recipe!

mezzi paccheri with fresh tuna ragu long image

If you make this pasta recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. Please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Buon appetito!  

Other seafood pasta recipes to try

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4.97 from 30 votes
paccheri with fresh tuna ragu
Paccheri with Fresh Tuna Ragu: Recipe from Sicily
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins

This fresh and delicious pasta with fresh tuna recipe from Sicily is easy to make and only takes the time you need to boil the water and cook the pasta! Perfect summer or weeknight meal!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Sicilian, Southern Italian
Keyword: Bluefin tuna, fresh tuna, pasta recipe, seafood pasta, Sicilian food, tuna pasta
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 360 g mezzi paccheri pasta (12-13oz) or paccheri, giant penne, rigatoni etc
  • 350 g fresh tuna (12oz) 1-2 thick steaks
  • 1-2 red onions I used Tropea onions
  • 250 g datterini tomatoes (9oz)
  • 1 lemon organic ( to zest)
  • 1/2 glass dry white wine
  • mint leaves
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil

  1. Put a pot of water onto boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to
    the boil again.

  2. Peel the red onion/s and slice into thin crescents. Cut the tuna into cubes, as in the photos. Wash the tomatoes, remove the stalk and cut them in half.

  3. Pour olive oil into a large frying pan or skillet, add the red onion and sauté gently. Once the onion has softened, add the tomatoes and cook on a medium heat until they start to soften
    too. Then turn the heat up, add the tuna and brown it for a couple of minutes turning frequently and then add the white wine. Allow the alcohol to evaporate. Turn the heat down.

  4. Cook the pasta a minute less than al dente according to the instructions on the packet.

  5. While the pasta is cooking (it usually takes about 10 minutes) season the tuna ragu with
    salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes more. You will see that the tomato peel begin to come off on its own, you can remove the peel if you prefer with the help of a knife and fork. I didn’t remove it.

  6. Add a little chopped fresh mint and cook the tuna sauce for a couple of minutes more.
    If necessary, add 1/2 ladle of pasta cooking water if the sauce seems dry.

  7. When the pasta is almost cooked, save a little of the cooking water and drain. Add the
    pasta to the pan with the tuna ragu. Mix the sauce and the pasta together well and finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Adding a little pasta cooking water if you need it.

  8. When the pasta is ready, remove the skillet from the heat and add some more chopped fresh
    mint leaves, freshly ground black pepper and the grated zest of one lemon.
    You can serve your mezzi paccheri with fresh tuna ragu with a drizzle of olive oil and some peperoncino flakes if desired.

Recipe Notes

This recipe can also be made with other steak fish such as swordfish. Whatever fish you use it’s important not to overcook it. Small cubes of fresh fish cook very quickly.

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  • Avatar
    August 26, 2019 5:13 pm

    These pastas look so good. I always get inspired by your recipes.

  • Avatar
    July 17, 2019 10:00 pm

    This looks fabulous. Easy yet flavorful dish to enjoy lunch or dinner. The ingredients are calling out my name.

    • Jacqui
      July 18, 2019 9:00 am

      Thank you Lathiya!I’m happy you like this fresh tuna pasta. I agree it’s easy yet very flavourful!

  • Avatar
    July 8, 2019 12:11 pm

    I love tuna fish. This sounds absolutely amazing. Looks beyond delicious too. I must give this recipe a try soon. I bet my family will love it too.

  • Avatar
    Cheese Curd In Paradise
    July 8, 2019 4:48 am

    I love the pasta shape. I have not tried it before, but I love big hearty shaped pasta. The tuna sounds delicious with the light tomato sauce!

  • Avatar
    Analida Braeger
    July 8, 2019 4:02 am

    This seems like a very daunting dish to make but this write up makes it seems so much easier, The photos really dont do it justice because this tuna ragu looks to die for !

  • Avatar
    July 8, 2019 3:15 am

    Those tuna steak chunks look incredible! It adds such a nice elegant touch to this pasta dish — perfect for company. Thanks for another delicious pasta recipe!

  • Avatar
    Chef and Steward
    July 8, 2019 3:13 am

    I always enjoy coming to your blog because I learn something new everyday. Never thought on tuna in a pasta dish. This paccheri looks very moreish.

  • Avatar
    July 8, 2019 1:41 am

    I love how well tuna and pasta go together. I haven’t tried this particular recipe but I have been enjoying this particular combo at home many times, and it never disappointed!

  • Avatar
    July 7, 2019 10:13 pm

    What a gorgeous looking pasta recipe! I’m always telling myself I need to try more recipes with fish. This looks amazing! I’ve never tried paccheri pasta, but I’m excited to make it.

  • Avatar
    July 7, 2019 4:13 pm

    This pasta dish looks amazing! I love the extra hint of mint in this and the lemon zest. I bet this tastes so fresh.

  • Avatar
    Jeannette (Jay Joy)
    July 7, 2019 12:04 pm

    YYA! I was looking for an Italian recipe that could go with tuna and sausage. I am so excited about this. We have Bible study night potluck coming up with an Italian theme.

  • Avatar
    Jenni LeBaron
    July 6, 2019 8:55 pm

    I love tuna and find that it lends such a special feeling when used thoughtfully in a dish like this. This ragu looks out of this world good!

  • Avatar
    Kelly Anthony
    July 6, 2019 5:05 pm

    Fresh tuna simply doesn’t get any better especially when it’s paired with yummy pasta. This recipe looks simply delicious.

  • Avatar
    July 6, 2019 3:13 am

    I just got back from a vacation full of seafood. This is exactly what I am craving now that I am home. Fresh tuna and pasta is going to happen this week!

  • Avatar
    Mama Maggie’s Kitchen
    July 6, 2019 12:20 am

    This looks insanely, incredibly good. Sooo yummy!

  • Avatar
    July 5, 2019 8:19 pm

    I never think about pairing tuna with pasta, but clearly I need to rethink this — your tuna ragu looks delicious! We try to swap out beef and pork for fish as often as we can, so this is perfect for us.

  • Avatar
    July 5, 2019 7:52 pm

    I love tuna with pasta, this pasta looks divine dear Jacqui. Looks so nice and fresh. I cannot wait to make this. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Avatar
    July 5, 2019 6:41 pm

    Wow! I’ve never tried fresh tuna in a pasta dish before. It’s time to try!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    July 5, 2019 5:35 pm

    All this looks amazing, and I love the lemon zest on top – what a fresh and lovely addition!

  • Avatar
    Carrie | Clean Eating Kitchen
    July 5, 2019 3:15 pm

    I love the idea of a tuna ragu – something I’ve never tried before! What a great idea for a yummy weeknight meal!

  • Avatar
    Marisa F. Stewart
    July 5, 2019 2:24 pm

    We are huge fresh tuna lovers!! We usually grill it. Now my mamma would make pasta with tuna. I never have. I don’t know why. I’ll have to search our International market of the Paccheri or I’ll drag our pasta machine out and make our own. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Avatar
    July 4, 2019 5:35 pm

    My family will absolutely love this. The blend of the fresh tuna and that delicious pasta is a winner!

  • Avatar
    July 4, 2019 4:16 pm

    I love tuna in pasta sauces, fresh or canned. This sounds great, thank you.

  • Avatar
    Geoffrey at Spoonabilities
    July 4, 2019 3:47 pm

    WOW, you aren’t kidding when you say fresh tuna. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fresh tuna pasta dish like this before. Time to try.

  • Avatar
    Ksenia Prints
    July 4, 2019 2:50 pm

    I love fresh tuna and never thought of combining it with pasta. Consider myself learned!

  • Avatar
    July 4, 2019 2:08 pm

    This is such a great recipe to change up your normal pasta routine. It sounds fantastic!

  • Avatar
    Sandhya Hariharan
    July 4, 2019 1:59 pm

    We love authentic Italian Pasta.. so am going to hunt for these paccheri pasta. Dish looks so delicious with the fresh ragu!

  • Avatar
    July 4, 2019 1:25 pm

    Looks and sounds so delicious and balanced! Perfect for a delicious dinner or lunch ♥

  • Avatar
    Kacie Morgan
    July 4, 2019 12:03 pm

    This looks like a delicious dish; I’ve been eating lots of tuna lately and it’s really calling out to me. I found a local delicatessen that sells authentic Italian pasta so maybe I could find this variety there.

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