Tuna and Anchovy Vermicelli (alla Campolattaro)

Tuna and Anchovy Vermicelli (alla Campolattaro): recipe from Naples.

This 19th century tuna and anchovy vermicelli recipe was invented by a Neapolitan marquis. It is not only simple to make and delicious, but you can impress your guests with the history behind the dish!

tuna and anchovy vermicelli alla campolattaro

Vermicelli alla Campolattaro.

Modern day Neapolitan cooking has two roots. The first is what is often referred to as ‘la cucina povera’ based on the diet of the peasant population. The other is based on the food enjoyed by the nobility of the past!

tuna and anchovy vermicelli alla campolattaro

Some vermicelli alla Campolattaro history!

Many 19th century Neapolitan aristocrats were passionate about gastronomy. They normally had famous chefs working for them but often tried their hand at inventing new recipes themselves. These recipes were usually rich and sophisticated and often influenced by French cuisine, which was fashionable with the upper classes. This canned tuna and anchovy vermicelli recipe was invented by Don Emilio Capomazza, Marchese di Campolattaro.

ingredients for tuna and anchovy vermicelli on white plate

Don Emilio Capomazza, Marchese di Campolattaro, lived in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the words of Jeanne Carola Francesconi (Italian chef and cookbook author), ‘He was a versatile and cultured gentleman, of great charm and a fascinating conversationalist. He was Mayor of Naples and a member of parliament, but he did not disdain the cultivation of the most prosaic of the arts: He created three famous pasta recipes that were named for him.”

tuna and anchovies in blender next to bowl of beef broth

Tuna and anchovy vermicelli is the simplest and best known of the ‘three pasta recipes’ invented by Marchese alla Campolattaro.

The ingredients.

Despite the fact that this tuna and anchovy vermicelli dish is the invention of a marquis in the 19th century, it is pretty contemporary in taste. It requires just a handful of ingredients, most of which are considered larder staples by the majority of Italians today. To make this tuna pasta recipe, all you need is anchovies, red/pink peppercorns, black peppercorns, beef stock, butter, olive oil and, of course, canned tuna and pasta!

tuna and anchovy sauce with peppercorns in saucepan

The canned tuna and anchovies.

In coastal Campania, Calabria and Sicily, preserving tuna in olive oil is an old tradition which some people still follow. So, although the Marchese di Campolattaro wouldn’t have used canned tuna, he would have used tuna preserved in olive oil!  However, nowadays most Italians buy their preserved tuna in olive oil at the supermarket! The same goes for anchovies, which are traditionally preserved in salt or olive oil.

cooked vermicelli with butter and parsley in white bowl

For this vermicelli alla Campolattaro, I used slightly more expensive tuna fillet in olive oil, but of course you can use any good quality canned tuna. If it’s Italian, even better! For the anchovies, I decided on anchovies also in olive oil. But, salted anchovies are the original ingredient so feel free to use those instead.

The pasta.

This tuna pasta recipe calls for vermicelli but actually vermicelli is the name Neapolitans used in the past for spaghetti. In fact, vermicelli is one of the oldest forms of dried pasta originating in Campania.  Once upon a time, Neapolitan pasta makers were actually called ‘vermicellari’. Today, Italian vermicelli is wider than spaghetti but you can use either. The vermicelli I used came from a company called Di Martino, one of the producers of my favourite pasta, pasta di Gragnano IGP. 

vermicelli pasta Di Martino

Pasta di Gragnano

For those who don’t know it, Gragnano is a town near Naples where dried pasta has been produced since 16th century, that’s almost 500 years! There is an association of pasta makers in Gragnano who produce pasta di Gragnano IGP. IGP is like saying DOC for wine. It’s a European certification to guarantee the origin, ingredients and production processes of certain food products.

tuna and anchovy sauce on cooked vermicelli in white bowl

What this means to me is that pasta di Gragnano IGP is like the champagne of pasta. There are a number of different companies producing this pasta and between them they export to 42 countries! So keep an eye out for it!

tuna and anchovy vermicelli alla campolattaro

There are many Southern Italian pasta recipes with canned tuna. Most of these recipes are pretty simple and eaten at informal family meals. Vermicelli alla Campolattaro actually looks and tastes more sophisticated than most canned tuna pasta dishes. I think it’s elegant enough to serve to guests too!

Tuna and anchovy vermicelli (alla Campolattaro)

If you make this tuna 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!  

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5 from 21 votes
tuna and anchovy vermicelli alla campolattaro
Tuna and Anchovy Vermicelli recipe from Naples
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins

This 19th century tuna pasta recipe was created by a Neapolitan Marquis. It's simple to make, so perfect for weeknights but elegant enough to serve to guests!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Campania, Italian, Mediterranean, Southern Italian
Keyword: anchovies, canned tuna, Italian food, Italian recipe, seafood pasta, tuna pasta, vermicelli
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 400 g vermicelli pasta (140z) or spaghetti
  • 200 g canned tuna (7oz) in olive oil
  • 2-4 anchovy fillets in oil or salted
  • 250 ml beef broth (8.5 floz) I used homemade
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • black peppercorns as required
  • pink peppercorns as required (Peruvian pepper)
  • 1 sprig fresh parsley
  • 1 knob butter
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again.

  2. Wash and chop the parsley. Drain the oil from the tuna. Rinse the anchovies well if they are salted. Cut them into small pieces and together with ¾ of the tuna, puree in a blender with a little of the beef broth.

  3. Put this sauce into a saucepan and add the rest of the broth and a few pink and black peppercorns. Stir and cook over a low heat until the sauce reduces and thickens (5-10 minutes). Add the rest of the tuna to the sauce and stir to mix in. Add salt to taste.

  4. Cook the vermicelli al dente according to the instructions on the packet, save a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. Return it to the pot or put it in a bowl and add the butter, olive oil and chopped parsley. Toss to mix well. 

  5. Then add the tuna and anchovy sauce, mix everything together well. Return to the heat and cook for another minute to allow the pasta to absorb the flavours of the sauce. If the sauce seems dry, add some pasta cooking water. Serve immediately with a little more chopped parsley and a few peppercorns.

Recipe Notes

This tuna pasta recipe can be served with spaghetti if you don't have vermicelli.

Instead of pink peppercorns (Peruvian pepper), some people use cayenne pepper. The taste will be slightly different, but still delicious!

N.B: As they are members of the cashew family, pink peppercorns, may cause allergic reactions in those who have nut allergies!

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tuna and anchovy vermicelli pasta recipe

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  • Avatar
    November 8, 2019 8:54 pm

    2 weeks ago i returned from a visit to the Amalfi Coast. Amongst the stunning places that we visited were the small towns of Vietri sul Mare and Cetara. In Cetara I ate a sensational pasta dish of local tuna, anchovies and (I think) linguini. Back home, I wanted to try to recreate it and your recipe seemed the closest and most authentic. Well, we made it this evening and although (probably unsurprisingly) it was not as amazing as that meal, it was pretty damn close! It was delicious. Thank you for letting us have the recipe.

    • Jacqui
      November 9, 2019 12:04 pm

      Hi Julie, I’m happy to hear you liked this tuna recipe. Of course it’s not the same as eating it in the Amalfi coast, but it’s still great to recreate holiday dishes at home! Cetara is famous for its anchovies (alici) and there they make a sauce called colatura di alici di Cetara by fermenting anchovies in brine. It’s possible that the pasta you ate included this sauce and would be hard to recreate exactly at home! You may be able to buy this sauce online. It’s actually on my to buy list as I want to publish a pasta recipe with it here.

  • Avatar
    June 11, 2019 9:41 pm

    I think all this time (since the 19th century) was more than enough for this pasta recipe to become perfect! I can’t wait to make it at home and connect with all the history behind it – yum!

  • Avatar
    June 11, 2019 9:39 pm

    Looking at this pasta recipe it is hard to say it is coming from the 19th century – it looks so modern. Great presentation and a wonderful dish.

  • Avatar
    June 11, 2019 3:17 am

    I’ve never thought to blend tuna with a little beef stock for pasta, but it looks so creamy and delicious that I’m obviously missing out! We eat pasta at least once a week, so it looks like I found my next dish.

  • Avatar
    June 10, 2019 10:25 pm

    Glad to know the history behind it…The pasta looks fabulous.

  • Avatar
    June 10, 2019 1:33 pm

    Oh my! I love this recipe – all ingredients in here and all the flavours! I cannot wait to try this recipe especially with the weather we are having over here at the moment – I really need this beautiful pasta in my life today. I have all the ingredients and will make it tonight – kids will be delighted! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Avatar
    Cathleen @ A Taste of Madness
    June 8, 2019 9:38 pm

    I have a lot of friends who are HUGE history buffs. They would definitely appreciate the history behind the dish. Thanks for that 🙂

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    June 8, 2019 11:34 am

    It’s so much fun reading about the history behind the pasta dishes! I think this is a clever recipe and a great combination.

  • Avatar
    Jenni LeBaron
    June 7, 2019 2:42 am

    I love tuna and anchovies together, they form the perfect umami base for this dish. I would gobble this up any night of the week!

  • Avatar
    June 6, 2019 12:22 am

    I love pasta, and this dish looks absolutely amazing. The flavors look incredible.

  • Avatar
    June 5, 2019 1:08 pm

    What a fabulous recipe! It’s so easy and flavorful!

  • Avatar
    Alina | Cooking Journey Blog
    June 5, 2019 12:54 pm

    I love that you share the history behind this dish. Looks like I would enjoy this plate of food!

  • Avatar
    Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    June 5, 2019 12:23 pm

    Ooh this sounds like a very flavourful dish! I loved finding out the history behind the dish.

  • Avatar
    Amy | The Cook Report
    June 5, 2019 11:39 am

    I love the sound of this, so full of flavour!

  • Avatar
    Tania | Fit Foodie Nutter
    June 5, 2019 10:24 am

    I love this quick and easy recipe, which I’m sure my family really enjoy too! Can’t wait to try it.

  • Avatar
    Kelly Anthony
    June 4, 2019 10:13 pm

    This looks simply delicious! I love seafood flavors in my pasta and this pasta is no exception.

  • Avatar
    Krissy Allori
    June 4, 2019 5:24 pm

    I haven’t put tuna in pasta before. I can’t wait to try this!

  • Avatar
    Alisha Rodrigues
    June 4, 2019 4:19 pm

    Canned tuna and beef broth… Sounds different but totally delicious. This is one recipe I need to try for sure

  • Avatar
    June 4, 2019 4:16 pm

    This sounds like such a flavorful dish! A great way change up the normal dinner routine.

  • Avatar
    Gloria | Homemade & Yummy
    June 4, 2019 4:01 pm

    I love the combination of tuna and pasta. What a great dinner any night of the week. I think all I would need would be a nice glass of white wine. Perfect for entertaining too.

  • Avatar
    Tawnie Kroll
    June 4, 2019 3:48 pm

    This was such a great pasta dish for the warmer weather we’ve been having. Thank you!

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