Tuna and Pesto Malloreddus Recipe from Sardinia.

Tuna and Pesto Malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi alla Carlofortina).

This tuna and pesto malloreddus recipe is a fabulous authentic seafood pasta recipe from the island of San Pietro, off the coast of Sardinia. It’s perfect for any occasion and can be eaten as a pasta salad too!

tuna and pesto malloreddus pasta from Sardinia

Malloreddus alla Carlofortina.

It’s December, actually nearly Christmas, and I’ve been looking for a new seafood pasta recipe that I can add to our Christmas menu. I wanted something simple and quick to make, but still worthy of our holiday table.

Here in Italy, seafood is very traditional especially on Christmas Eve. However, when you’re planning a dinner with lots of dishes, you don’t want anything that takes too much time. This tuna and pesto malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi alla Carlofortina) turned out to be perfect! It really ticked all the boxes. I’m definitely going to make it again over the holidays!

ingredients to make basil pesto

Pasta alla Carlofortina is a recipe from Sardinia. Actually to be more exact it’s from the island of San Pietro! Have you ever heard of it?

ingredients for basil pesto in food processor

Where is the island of San Pietro?

The island of San Pietro lies off the south-western tip of Sardinia. It is named after St. Peter who, according to legend, took refuge there during a storm while traveling to Rome. It is the second largest island, after Sant’Antioco, in the Sulcis archipelago. The only town on the island is Carloforte. The population there are the descendants of a Genovese coral fishing community established on the Tunisian island of Tabarka in 16th Century.

ingredients for malloreddus alla carlofortina on white plate

When Tabarko was captured by the Tunisians in 1741, the Genovese community fled.  Charles Emmanuel III of Savoy gifted them the Sulcis Islands. Today, many residents still speak the Tabarchino dialect which has words derived from Tunisian Arabic and French!

chopped onions in frying pan with olive oil

At first the Tabarkan settlers dedicated themselves to the production of salt and to coral fishing. However, their main activity was, and still is, tuna fishing. In fact, the main ingredient of the local cuisine is tuna. The islanders cook it in in many ways, apart from in this malloreddus alla carlofortina recipe. They like it roasted and ‘drowned’ in red wine, baked with or without potatoes, grilled, cooked with onions, olive oil and white wine or raw as a carpaccio. They also love bottarga, salted and dried tuna roe.

tuna chunks and onions in frying pan

Making this tuna and pesto malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi alla carlofortina)

Created as a fusion of Sardinian and Ligurian cuisine, pasta alla carlofortina is a specialty of San Pietro. This is a delicious pasta recipe that is ideal for a summer lunch or dinner. You can even eat it tepid as a pasta salad.  However, I think it’s great any time of the year.

tuna chunks, onions and cut cherry tomatoes in frying pan

I used frozen tuna fillet to make this Sardinian gnocchi alla carlofortina. Fresh tuna isn’t easy to come by at this time of year. Of course, you can use fresh tuna or a good quality canned tuna, preferably fillets.

cooked malloreddus (sardinian gnocchi) in frying pan with tomatoes and tuna

I also made my own pesto alla Genovese (basil pesto). But, to make this a quick meal, you can use a ready-made pesto. In fact, if you use canned tuna and ready-made pesto, this pasta alla carlofortina is super easy and fast, and still delicious. However, for a more special occasion homemade pesto and fresh/frozen tuna would be best!

cooked sardinian gnocchi (malloreddus) mixed together with tomatoes and tuna

The Pasta.

In Carloforte, this dish is traditionally cooked with Sardinian gnocchi , also called malloreddus, or with trofie. Trofie is a pasta from Liguria that is widely used in Genova for pesto. But, pasta alla Carlofortina also goes well with spaghetti, penne or cavatelli. I used Sardinian gnocchi made by Rummo.

homemade basil pesto added to pasta, tuna and tomatoes in frying pan

Despite the simplicity of this Sardinian gnocchi with tuna and pesto, I have to say I fell in love with this recipe. The combination of tuna, creamy basil pesto and sweet cherry tomatoes really makes a fabulous dish! Your family or guests are bound to fall in love with it!

tuna and pesto malloreddus ready to serve

If you do try this tuna and pesto pasta recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please, write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.

Your feedback means a lot to me!

Buon Appetito!

More recipes from Sardinia on The Pasta Project

  1. Sardinian fregola with small clams
  2. Fregola with chickpeas
  3. Sardinian gnocchi (malloreddus) with lamb ragu
  4. Malloreddus with sausage, saffron and tomatoes
tuna and pesto malloreddus (sardinian gnocchi)

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tuna and pesto malloreddus alla carlofortina
pasta alla carlofortina with tuna and pesto
5 from 26 votes
tuna and pesto malloreddus
Tuna and Pesto Malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi alla Carlofortina)
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins

Made with creamy basil pesto, fresh tuna and cherry tomatoes, this tuna and pesto malloreddus recipe is a fabulous authentic seafood pasta recipe from the island of San Pietro, off the coast of Sardinia. It’s perfect for any occasion and can be eaten as a pasta salad too!

Course: Main Course, pasta salad
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean, Sardinia
Keyword: authentic Italian pasta recipe, canned tuna, fresh tuna, Italian recipe, malloreddus, pesto, Sardinian recipe
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 400 g malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi) (14oz) or trofie
  • 300 g fresh tuna (10-11oz) or canned tuna
  • 15-20 cherry tomatoes cut into halves or quarters
  • 1 onion small
  • 1/2 glass white wine
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
For Basil Pesto (or ready made 150g/5oz)
  • 4 handfuls fresh basil leaves
  • 30 g pine nuts (1oz)
  • 50 g Parmigiano Reggiano or grana (2oz) grated or pecorino from Sardinia
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • salt to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil. as required
Make the basil pesto
  1. If it’s possible, choose medium sized young basil leaves (brighter green). Rinse the leaves under water and dry them with paper towels. Dry fry the pine nuts for 2-3 minutes if you prefer to have them toasted. Watch they don't burn! I didn't toast them for this recipe!

  2. Put all the ingredients in a mini food processor and pulse a few seconds at a time until you have the right consistency, adding as much olive oil as you need to create a paste. Don’t keep pulsing for too long at once as the blender heats up, this can spoil the basil. Put the pesto in a bowl and set aside.

Make the alla Carlofortina sauce
  1. Peel and chop the onion. Cut the tuna into small cubes (if using fresh or frozen tuna) Wash the tomatoes and cut into halves or quarters.

  2. Fry the finely chopped onion in olive oil in a skillet or deep frying pan until it starts to soften. Add the chopped tuna and brown it on all sides then add the white wine and let the alcohol evaporate. At the end add the halved cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Cook the pasta.
  1. While the sauce is cooking, put a pot of water onto boli for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again. Cook the pasta al dente  according to the instructions on the packet. When the pasta is ready, save a cup of the cooking water and drain. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix well.

  2. Add the pesto to the pasta and sauce and mix well again. If it seems dry, add a spoonful of the saved pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

You can make pasta alla carlofortina with ready-made pesto and canned tuna for a quick and delicious plate of pasta. If you don’t have malloreddus or trofie you can use other short pasta like cavatelli or penne or even spaghetti. 

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Tuna and pesto malloreddus recipe from Sardinia

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  • Avatar
    Amy Dong
    December 23, 2019 9:56 pm

    Love how pretty, vibrant, and healthy this dish sounds and looks! It would be such a great one to throw in during busy weeknights for entire family!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 10:42 pm

      Thank you, Amy. It’s a great recipe for a weeknight meal foir the family.

  • Avatar
    December 23, 2019 7:15 pm

    My family loved this dish and is already asking for more!! Thanks for the recipe!!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 10:43 pm

      I love that Aline! Glad it’s a crowd pleaser!

  • Avatar
    December 23, 2019 12:51 am

    I am such a sucker for fast meals – you are right, for Christmas, that’s what you really need when you are whipping out a lot of dishes! That homemade pesto atop this one sounds incredible fresh light and amazingly delicious. I can’t wait to make it this week!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 10:46 pm

      Thank you, Kita. I hope you get to try it.

  • Avatar
    Cathleen @ A Taste of Madness
    December 22, 2019 10:09 pm

    This is my ultimate favourite combo!! I would devour this within seconds!!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 10:47 pm

      Fabulous Cathleen! Make a big batch!

  • Avatar
    December 22, 2019 9:50 pm

    This just looks absolutely delicious! I wish I could have this for dinner tonight. What a beautiful meal for any occasion!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 10:47 pm

      I hope you get to try it soon Tammy!

  • Avatar
    December 22, 2019 11:31 am

    This seems like such a simple and comforting meal to make, it sounds delicious!

    Katie xoxo

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 10:49 pm

      Thank you, Katie. It’s simple and delicious. Perfect for the post holiday menu!

  • Avatar
    December 21, 2019 11:21 pm

    This pasta recipe is a perfect weeknight meal! Love pesto!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 10:53 pm

      Me too Emily! It is perfect for a quick and tasty weeknight meal.

  • Avatar
    Constance Smith
    December 21, 2019 7:43 pm

    I love the simplicity of this recipe. I can’t say the last time I had tuna. Now I’m craving it! 😀

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 10:55 pm

      Thank you, Constance. I hope you get to try it soon!

  • Avatar
    Marisa F. Stewart
    December 20, 2019 11:06 pm

    What a great recipe!! I had some fresh tuna in the fridge and instead of just searing it in the pan, I decided to ty out this recipe. I was pleased. Loved the seafood with the pasta. I’ll be making the recipe again.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 10:57 pm

      Thank you, Marisa. That sounds delicious, I am glad you were able to try it!

  • Avatar
    December 20, 2019 10:12 pm

    I have never been to the island of San Pietro but I do want to travel there now. If that is where this recipe comes from, I am sure they have a lot more to surprise with. Great tip about the pesto (very helpful) and wonderful recipe.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:04 pm

      It’s very beautiful, and thank you!

  • Avatar
    Lesli Schwartz
    December 20, 2019 4:09 pm

    I feel transported to Sardinia with this pasta recipe! Looks absolutely delicious!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:06 pm

      That is a lovely compliment! Thank you, Lesli.

  • Avatar
    December 20, 2019 3:08 pm

    This tuna and pesto dish is just what I’m craving for lunch today! Light and full of delicious flavors.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:08 pm

      it is Sharon. It’s perfect for the holidays or post-holidays!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    December 18, 2019 9:13 pm

    What a great dish! I love pasta and pesto together, so easy and so delicious. Those Sardinian gnocchi are so cute too, I would love to get my hands on those.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:17 pm

      Thank you, Stine. If you do, let me know how it turns out!

  • Avatar
    Analida Braeger
    December 18, 2019 3:19 pm

    This dish looks so easy to make with the step by step photos. Thanks for sharing!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:19 pm

      It’s straightforward and delicious. I am glad the photos help!

  • Avatar
    December 17, 2019 11:18 pm

    Oh my goodness! This pasta dish looks and sounds amazing! I absolutely love pesto and who doesn’t love pasta??? I can’t wait to try!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:21 pm

      Exactly Jess! I hope you try it soon.

  • Avatar
    December 17, 2019 5:45 pm

    You weren’t kidding when you said this recipe ticked all the boxes – gnocchi pasta (who knew!), canned, fresh or frozen tuna options, easy and delicious! Luv your posts and all the history. Thanks!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:22 pm

      Thank you, Tara!

  • Avatar
    Chef Dennis
    December 17, 2019 8:19 am

    Yum! This Tuna and Pesto Malloreddus looks really scrumptious! This will be perfect for the coming Holiday. Will definitely add this on my Christmas menu.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:24 pm

      I hope this was a big hit!

  • Avatar
    December 14, 2019 11:53 pm

    Looks so good! I simply love the combination of tuna and pesti together.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:24 pm

      Thank you, Neha! It is a great combination.

  • Avatar
    Andrea Metlika
    December 14, 2019 10:43 pm

    I can just imagine how wonderful your house smells when you made this. It looks absolutely wonderful. Love everything about this dish.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:26 pm

      It does smell wonderful!

  • Avatar
    December 14, 2019 9:22 pm

    Yum!!! What a fantastic recipe!!!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:28 pm

      Thank you, Ashley.

  • Avatar
    December 14, 2019 8:25 pm

    Perfect Christmas Eve or Day dish! No matter where you live, during the holidays you want dishes like this one that are elegant and easy!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:29 pm

      Thank you, Beth. It’s so good for the holidays, for entertaining or for a quick family meal.

  • Avatar
    December 14, 2019 7:39 pm

    This dish looks so delicious and full of flavor! Such a perfect dinner option.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:30 pm

      It is Shanika, thank you!

  • Avatar
    December 14, 2019 7:24 pm

    Tuna and pesto aren’t ingredients I’d normally put together, but this dish looks amazing and I’m eager to try it!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:31 pm

      You are missing out Jenn, they are gorgeous together!

  • Avatar
    December 14, 2019 7:03 pm

    Such a lovely dish! I love the flavors of the pesto in it.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:34 pm

      Thank you, Sapana!

  • Avatar
    December 14, 2019 6:51 pm

    Nothing can beat a plate full of pasta in my books 🙂 Love this simple recipe!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 11:35 pm

      Me either, Julia!

  • Avatar
    December 14, 2019 5:58 pm

    Sounds like such a flavorful dish! Love how easy it all comes together.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      December 29, 2019 10:31 pm

      Thank you Demeter. I love easy and tasty dishes!

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