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This linguine with tuna in an orange sauce is luscious and bright

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
Linguine and Tuna With Spicy Orange Sauce
Total time:20 mins
Total time:20 mins

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Good day, all. Thanks for joining me this week in celebration of the mighty, tasty and versatile noodle. In the past few days, we slurped frilly Shanxi planed noodles in this spicy sesame chile oil number. We enjoyed lo mein with mushrooms and scallions. And we savored a rich bowl of chewy udon with soft-boiled eggs and butter.

I had a hard time picking a noodle from the dozens and dozens of shapes and sizes available to feature today because, at first, I thought it should be a really rare noodle, maybe one that I hadn’t heard of before but that would be worth seeking out. I spent some time in Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian markets, perusing the aisles and discovering noodle shapes and varieties galore. I scoured cookbooks at home, at work and in the library. I asked friends about their favorite noodle dishes.

Ultimately though, this newsletter is meant to appeal to every cook, no matter where they live. I realized that the recipe I picked should work with a handful of different noodles and not be too exacting. I also haven’t yet featured a recipe for pasta this week, so here it is. Today, I’m excited to share an ultra-easy linguine and tuna recipe with spicy orange sauce from Ying Chang Compestine’s cookbook “Ying’s Best One-Dish Meals.”

Linguine means “little tongues” in Italian. If you don’t have any in your pantry, you can substitute spaghetti, youmian or another long noodle made with eggs. I even tested this recipe with soba and ramen, and they both held up to the sprightly sauce. With its orange zest and juice, plus olive oil, mustard and crushed red pepper flakes, this bowlful of noodles tastes like particles of sunshine, bright and sparkly.

You’ll start by cooking the noodles in boiling water that has plenty of salt in it. This ensures that your pasta’s flavor will come through even after it’s mixed with the sauce. While the pasta’s cooking, get to work on the sauce. Prep watercress (or spinach), and drain the oil from a couple of cans of oil-packed tuna. (If you only have water-packed tuna, that will work here, but the fish will have a somewhat fishier flavor and the texture will be more mealy than meaty.)

Next, in a large bowl — I used a serving bowl — zest a couple of oranges (navel or blood), and then squeeze in half a cup of orange juice. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mustard. Once the pasta is cooked, toss it into the silky sauce along with the watercress. Add a splash or two of pasta water to temper the sweetness of the orange juice, if you’d like. Top with the tuna and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Serve family-style, and slurp to your heart’s content.

Linguine and Tuna With Spicy Orange Sauce

  • Oil-packed tuna can be packed with any kind of oil. >> Look for tuna packed with olive oil for the best flavor.
  • To make this dish vegan >> substitute stewed and drained chickpeas (or another white bean) for the tuna.
  • No Dijon? >> Use brown, spicy or whole-grain mustard.
  • Need to limit your spice intake? >> Nix the red pepper flakes.

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  • Fine salt
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat or regular dried linguine
  • Leaves from 1 bunch watercress (may substitute baby spinach)
  • 2 or 3 navel or blood oranges
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for optional garnish
  • Two (5-ounce) cans oil-packed tuna, preferably hook-and-line-caught albacore, drained

Step 1

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

Step 2

Rinse and dry the watercress; you should have at least 1 1/4 cups.

Step 3

Finely zest 1 orange to yield 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons, letting the zest fall into a large bowl. Cut that orange and the other(s) in half; squeeze them to yield 3/4 cup of juice. Add 1/2 cup of the juice to the bowl, along with the olive oil, vinegar, mustard and crushed red pepper flakes, whisking to combine. Add the watercress and the drained pasta, tossing to combine and coat evenly. Taste, and add some or all of the remaining orange juice, as needed; if the orange flavor is too prominent, use some of the reserved pasta cooking water to dilute the sauce.

Step 4

Scatter the tuna over the pasta. Sprinkle with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve family-style.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (using whole-wheat linguine)

Calories: 470; Total Fat: 18 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 20 mg; Sodium: 470 mg; Carbohydrates: 49 g; Dietary Fiber: 5 g; Sugar: 6 g; Protein: 26 g.

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “Ying’s Best One-Dish Meals,” by Ying Chang Compestine (Sellers, 2011).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; email questions to

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Catch up on this week’s Eat Voraciously recipes:

Monday: Spicy Sesame Chile Oil Noodles

Tuesday: Mushroom and Scallion Lo Mein

Wednesday: Udon Noodles With Soft-Boiled Egg, Soy and Black Pepper

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