Tuna in Rustic Tomato Sauce

By Ann Fulton

Quick, wholesome, and brimming with flavor, this one-pan meal makes a perfect dinner for two, but the recipe doubles easily.
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Quick, wholesome, and brimming with flavor, this one-pan meal makes a perfect dinner for two, but the recipe doubles easily.


As summer dwindles and the days grow shorter, I find myself savoring the many varieties of local produce that will soon be gone until next summer. Sad as I am to say goodbye to juicy peaches and vine-ripened tomatoes, I happily await crisp apples and the many cold-tolerant vegetables, some of which taste even better after the first frost.

In the spirit of making a smooth transition from one season to the next, the following recipe offers a way to enjoy the final weeks of the local tomato season with an easy, one-pan meal. The next recipe I post will embrace leafy greens, which become sweeter as the temperatures fall and the plants’ starches convert to sugars.


Tuna in Rustic Tomato Sauce is a fast, flavorful dinner as well as an offshoot of Speedy Cherry Tomato Sauce. Originally, I devised the sauce recipe to manage the deluge of cherry and grape tomatoes I encountered a few summers ago.

Unlike their full-size counterparts, store-bought grape tomatoes can be pretty tasty throughout the winter months. Accordingly, this recipe is a worthy option when you’re craving a fresh-tasting summer sauce once the backyard vines have withered. As an added perk, it’s an ideal meal when time is tight.

Adding quick-cooking and heart-healthy tuna to the simple sauce creates a complete dinner in no time. Capers and anchovies add another layer of flavor. The anchovies are subtle enough to be overlooked by those who profess a dislike for them, as the tiny fillets literally dissolve into the sauce. Yet if the thought still makes you squeamish, just make the recipe without them. It will still taste great.

Quick, wholesome, and brimming with flavor, this one-pan meal makes a perfect dinner for two, but the recipe doubles easily.

The barebones (but delicious!) original recipe for Speedy Cherry Tomato Sauce is pictured below.

This quick and easy sauce is a versatile summertime staple and a delicious way to use an abundance of cherry or grape tomatoes. It will even make the most of off-season cherry tomatoes. 
Tuna in Rustic Tomato Sauce
As written, this one-pan recipe makes a perfect dinner for two. It can easily be doubled, however. In that case, just be sure to use a skillet with a 12-inch diameter. If desired, serve over pasta or with a side of crusty bread.

Yields 2 servings.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 2 cups (1 pint) cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered or halved
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 (6-ounce) fresh, center-cut tuna steaks
  • Optional but recommended: about 2 tablespoons each crumbled feta and torn, fresh basil leaves
  1. In a large skillet (a 10-inch diameter works well), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute or until fragrant but not turning brown. Add the anchovies, mashing them with the back of a spoon. (They will dissolve into a paste and flavor the sauce with no obvious pieces.)
  2. Add the tomatoes, capers, salt, pepper, and sugar. As the tomatoes cook and soften, mash them with a fork to help them form a chunky, rustic sauce. Simmer this mixture for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tuna steaks and cook for 3-4 minutes or until cooked to your liking, flipping to finish off the second side, about 30 seconds to a minute more. (We like our tuna a little pink inside. Cook longer for well done, shorter for rare. You can typically gauge how “cooked through” the steaks are by looking at the sides. It is also fine to cut into the center and take a peek to be sure.)
  4. Sprinkle with feta and torn basil, if using. Serve with crusty bread, over pasta, or as is.
  • If you really don’t like anchovies–or capers, for that matter–you may omit them. They do provide wonderful flavor though, and even those who don’t care for anchovies never seem to know they’re there!
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