Italian tuna balls

Italian tuna balls

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(51 ratings)

Prep: 15 mins Ready in 20 mins


Serves 4
A superhealthy twist on a family favourite that can be served with spaghetti or squashed flat and cooked as burgers

Nutrition and extra info

  • Freezable
  • Easily doubled / halved

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal594
  • fat12g
  • saturates2g
  • carbs92g
  • sugars8g
  • fibre4g
  • protein35g
  • salt1.42g
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  • 2 160g cans of tuna in sunflower or olive oil, drained (reserve a little oil)



    A member of the mackerel family, tuna are mainly found in the world's warmer oceans. They…

  • small handful of pine nuts
  • freshly grated zest 1 lemon



    Oval in shape, with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile fruits…

  • small handful parsley leaves, roughly chopped



    One of the most ubiquitous herbs in British cookery, parsley is also popular in European and…

  • 50g fresh breadcrumb
  • 1 egg, beaten



    The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition, packed with protein and a…

  • 400g spaghetti
  • 500g jar pasta sauce


  1. Flake the tuna into a bowl, then tip in the pine nuts, lemon zest, parsley, breadcrumbs and egg. Season and mix together with your hands until completely combined. Roll the mix into 12 walnut-size balls. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil, then cook the spaghetti according to pack instructions.

  2. Heat a little of the tuna oil in a large non-stick frying pan, then fry the tuna balls for 5 mins, turning every minute or so until completely golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Heat the tomato sauce, then toss together with the pasta and tuna balls.

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Comments (60)

mounses2's picture

These were nice, but next time I will use less egg to make them a bit more firm. I made them with brown rice and I agree with other comments that they would not really feed four. I'm not sure what I was expecting, I will make them again as a handy mid week dinner without having to get extra items from the shop, they weren't amazing though.

forager's picture

I also used tuna in brine but tipped into a colander to wash off the brine. I toasted the pine nuts to release that intense nutty flavour, and used passata instead of 'pasta sauce', tipped into some fried onion and garlic. Great advice for keeping the tuna balls in shape are 1) to put them in the fridge for 20 mins and 2) not to touch them for a good 3-4 mins to develop a crust before turning them. They came out brown, crispy and delicious!

louisa22's picture

Really enjoyed this. Didn't have parsley, but still lovely lemony flavour. I was making for 2 and still used 50g of breadcrumbs and added onion and would say this was right amount. I made my own tomato sauce with onion and pepper.

nickynoo73's picture

Love it, love it, love it! These are so easy to make and taste so good! I made them the third time round with tuna which had been in Brine (as it's cheaper) and added a very small amount of sunflower oil. The meatballs stayed together better this time round. I agree that 2 tins won't serve 4 people, 2 tins only just made 8 decent walnut-sized balls for me and hubby.

slaidler07's picture

A family favourite, and a regular part of our weekly menu!

fizzh89's picture

I love this recipe, I've done it a few times, and would offer the following advice to those who have had problems with collapsing meatballs........ leave them to get nice and brown before you attempt to turn them. I also prefer to squash each ball down into a little burger shape, making it much easier to cook evenly and turn. In my experience, this is a pretty reliable way of avoiding the frustrating collapse. I serve it with a home made tomato sauce, and it always goes down well, though I would agree that it may not serve 4 adults for a main meal.

stormyraincloud's picture

Very tasty. I didn't have pine nuts so didn't have them. I also didn't fry them, too time consuming for me. I just put them on an oiled baking tray and oven cooked them. Thought it might dry them out but they were lovely.
Made a spicy tomato sauce, with basil, chilli flakes, tinned tomatoes, passata, and a spoonful of sugar.
With wholewheat pasta. Very nice.

emmajmcc's picture

Came home to

mommamia's picture

This recipe was a great success, so much more tasty then i thought it would be.

catshevlane's picture

mmmmmm scrumptious and easy to make!!

matinads's picture

Really unusual, would never have thought to do this, but it really worked. A nice healthy alternative to mince. Will def make again for a week night tea

andrearuth's picture

My two year old daughter tucked into this with gusto! A very nice meal with the added benefit of being super-easy to prepare. I refridgerated the tuna balls for an hour before cooking and they stayed together perfectly. I will definitely make this again soon.

annelisarkanen's picture

Very tasty - took a little longer than the 20mins and a couple of the balls fell apart but nevertheless - excellent. Will deffo try again.

annie0176's picture

A great simple to prepare tasty meal - my family loved it, and I will make again.

mareid28's picture

Very tasty but the balls are very hard to bind and fiddly to cook - making a delicous dinner but presentation wise wasn't great. All in all very filling and healthy. I used wholemeal pasta to make it that little more healthy to.

warbaby's picture

yummy. It worked really grat with Jamie Olivers tomato and basil pasta sauce...

emsmith's picture

My four year-old daughter had never willingly eaten tuna until being presented with these. She loved them! I found the tuna balls held their shape quite well but possibly would've fallen apart had I stirred the sauce much after adding them.

I agree with the comments re: the quantities. It fed me and two small children but I'd have to up the quantities if my husband was eating with us.

foxychick578's picture

I'm pleased to read that I wasnt the only one who found that the tuna balls tended to fall apart a bit! It is a tasty recipe and I added some chopped red onion, some chilli, garlic and the first time a bit of grated mozarella too. The first time I ended up with a tuna mess, but it was tasty with the sauce and pasta. The second time I rolled the balls in flour before cooking which seemed to help but some still fell apart. It doesnt seem to matter which pasta you use but if anyone has any great ideas for making the balls stick together so you can cook them I would be interested as I really would like to cook this again.

striker26uk's picture

I don't know if it was me. I've liked every recipe of this site and use it daily. but this recipe tasted like what I think cat food would be like if I were to eat it. Not very nice at all. Very bland, horrible texture and nearly made me be sick. Although it could be my wifes cooking.

sfrazer's picture

A great way to cook using cupboard ingredients. Everyone loved this dish.


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