Alexis DeBoshnek's trick for turning canned tuna into a luxurious dinner will blow your mind

My tuna-hating husband went back for seconds of this garlicky, salty dinner winner

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published November 17, 2022 11:00AM (EST)

Garlicky Black Beans with Tuna and Olives (Mary Elizabeth Williams)
Garlicky Black Beans with Tuna and Olives (Mary Elizabeth Williams)

In "Quick & Dirty," Salon Food's Mary Elizabeth Williams serves up simplified recipes and shortcuts for exhausted cooks just like you — because quick and dirty should still be delicious.

Lately, every time I go to the supermarket, I feel like someone who has awakened from a 30-year nap and can't believe how much everything costs. A quart of milk is how much? A dozen eggs ring up for what? Not long ago, I'd imagined all the steak and salmon I'd be cooking with the kids away at school and only two people to cook for most nights.

There has been no steak.

But eating on a restrained budget doesn't have to mean eating glumly. Recently, as I leafed through the beautiful "To the Last Bite: Recipes and Ideas for Making the Most of Your Ingredients," I found myself enraptured with Alexis DeBoschnek's simple approach for delicious meals that get the biggest bang out of pantry staples. I'm obsessed with her preserved lemons and quick pickles, not to mention her interpretation of the iconic smash burger.

Yet it was DeBoschnek's recipe for bucatini with tuna and olives that called out to me the loudest. In her hands, pasta and tuna didn't seem like a reminder of sad childhood casseroles. It looked, as she described it, like a feast to make on a Mallorcan holiday "at the end of long days in the sun." And who wouldn't want a little taste of that on a dreary fall night?

Because, of course, there's no bucatini to be found (and because sometimes I get a craving for something other than pasta), I make my version with hearty black beans. And because a cheap meal doesn't have to be a retrained meal, I also amp up DeBoschnek's suggested amounts of garlic and red pepper flakes. For a final hit of intensity, I throw in a few thinly sliced, seeded slices of lemon.

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"You know this isn't really my thing — but look," my tuna-rejecting, olive-avoidant spouse told me as we wound down from this dinner of tuna and olives. His plate was entirely clean, and he was reaching back into the serving bowl.

What can I say? This is just a magical mix of flavors. That I'd made the meal in about 10 minutes for a few pennies was nice. But enjoying a spectacular dinner for two — one that briefly transported us to a languid Spanish getaway — was absolutely priceless.

* * *

Inspired by Alexis Deboschnek's "To the Last Bite: Recipes and Ideas for Making the Most of Your Ingredients"

Garlicky Black Beans with Tuna and Olives
 2-4 servings
Prep Time
 10 minutes
Cook Time
 10 minutes


  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 grated garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped jarred green olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 large can oil-packed tuna, drained
  • Flaky salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Cleaned, chopped parsley or other tender greens, to taste



  1. In a serving bowl, mix together the garlic, red pepper flakes, olives, capers, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Heat the rest of the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the beans and simmer until just warmed. Add the tuna and stir.
  4. Pour the garlic and oil mixture into the pan and heat everything through.
  5. Pour the mixture back into your serving bowl, mix and top with herbs. Enjoy immediately.

Cook's Notes

Feel free to reach for olives with pimentos, as well as cut a few thin extra slices of lemon, if you like.

Got leftovers? They're very good served cold for lunch.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Black Beans Food Olives Quick & Dirty Recipe Spanish Tuna