Spaghetti with Tuna, Chilli, and Lemon

This Spaghetti with Tuna, Chilli, Rocket & Lemon takes only 20 mins from start to finish!

Spaghetti with Tuna, Chilli, Rocket & Lemon in bowl

I have been a long-time admirer and follower of Donna Hay’s cookbooks, even as early back when she was the food editor of the Marie Claire cookbooks in Australia. Her clean and refined approach to food styling is what normally attracts the attention of readers in the first instance; food which looks so stunningly beautiful on the page, yet deceptively simple in composition, that each photo could pass as a piece of artwork. Many have tried to copy and emulate the style of Donna Hay, but I think few have come close in executing the same level of sophistication.

So it is with some trepidation that I even attempt to photograph my own recreation of a Donna Hay recipe because my dish looks absolutely nothing like the photo in the cookbook which accompanies this recipe. Where Donna Hay’s mound of spaghetti sits neat and tidy on a plate with pieces of rocket carefully tucked away amongst the strands and with chunks of tuna cascading invitingly on the plate, mine looks more like a student’s dinner. But that’s ok … food stylists have to go the distance to convince people to try a recipe, while the home cook should never be under any obligation to do restaurant-style plating at home. And as a food blogger with 5 minutes to take photos while my family looks on in hunger, I often have no choice but to take the messy route myself.

Spaghetti with Tuna, Chilli, Rocket & Lemon with lemon juicer

This recipe for Spaghetti with Tuna, Rocket & Lemon comes from one of Donna Hay’s cookbooks, Fresh and Light. It is not a diet cookbook but, as the title suggests, it is about bringing balance to one’s eating habits by using fresh and light ingredients, something which resonates well with me because that is how one could define Vietnamese cuisine.

Fresh and Light is beautifully photographed by the ever-talented William Meppem and is full of inspiring recipes which are perfect for those days when you want relatively fast and fresh food.

This Spaghetti with Tuna, Rocket & Lemon happens to be a no-cook dish, save for the pasta. In fact, it was so quick and simple to put together that I now know what to make if I ever need to make dinner in a hurry. The tuna is seasoned simply with lemon juice and chillies, with capers to add a salty bite, and the mixture is then tossed through some hot spaghetti with rocket leaves added for a fresh and peppery contrast. Easy and so full of flavour!


Spaghetti with Tuna, Chilli, and Lemon

5 from 2 reviews

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2

Recipe adapted from Fresh and Light by Donna Hay


  • 200 g(7 oz) spaghetti
  • 185 g (6 1/2 oz) drained tinned tuna
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • sea salt & freshly cracked pepper
  • handful of rocket leaves (arugula)


  1. Cooked the spaghetti according to packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the tuna, chilli, lemon juice, olive oil and capers. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the hot saucepan.
  4. Toss through the tuna mixture.
  5. Place a handful of rocket leaves(arugula)  on each plate or bowl, and place the spaghetti mixture on top. The heat of the spaghetti will wilt the rocket leaves (arugula).

Kitchen Notes

To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.


  • Serving Size: Nutritional info per serve
  • Calories: 551
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Sodium: 259.2mg
  • Fat: 13g
  • Carbohydrates: 78.3g
  • Fiber: 10.1g
  • Protein: 36.7g
  • Cholesterol: 38.9mg

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment below and share your photos by tagging @eatlittlebird on Instagram and using #eatlittlebird


donna-hay-giveaway2In association with HarperCollins Publishers Australia and Hardie Grant Books UK, Eat, Little Bird has THREE copies of Donna Hay’s Fresh and Light to give away.

The giveaway is open to anyone worldwide and the books will be distributed as follows:
*1 copy to a winner in Australia
*1 copy to a winner in the United Kingdom
*1 copy to a winner in the rest of the world

To enter, simply leave a comment below and please indicate which country you are from in the drop-down box.

Entries will close at the end of Friday 16 May 2014 and the winners will be notified by email. Good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Hannah, Gaynor Main and Jacqueline Anderson! You have each won a copy of Fresh and Light.

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  1. Hannah 2 May 2014

    Oh Thanh that recipe looks right up my street and I’d love the book so please enter me for the draw! Also, please do tell me where you got hold of that gorgeous lemon squeezer? It’s beautiful!

    • Eat, Little Bird 2 May 2014

      Hi Hannah,
      The lemon juicer is from Anthropologie, I think, from when we lived in Chicago. I don’t think they sell them anymore but they always have beautiful products worth checking out 🙂 And thanks for entering the giveaway!

      • Hannah 3 May 2014

        Oh will check it out!

  2. Sj Dc 2 May 2014

    Pasta + seafood + citrus + herbage = my food heaven!

  3. Tracey Peach 2 May 2014

    GB Lots of lovely light ideas in this book

  4. Nanci 2 May 2014

    Donna Hay is amazing and this looks so yum!

  5. carol usher 2 May 2014

    Beautiful food. I have not seen the original but your dish looks scrumptious!

    • Eat, Little Bird 2 May 2014

      Oh thank you! The original looks much, much better but I’m glad you like my photo nonetheless 🙂

  6. Donna 2 May 2014

    This is my kind of food: delicious, light, fast, and easy. I’m a big fan of Donna Hay. Her food photography is almost as lovely as yours!

    • Eat, Little Bird 2 May 2014

      I don’t believe that for a second! 😉 But I’m glad to hear that you are also a fan of Donna Hay 🙂 I find her very inspirational and absolutely love her books and magazines.

  7. Laura 2 May 2014

    GB. So simple and yet so lush! Thanks for the tip re a new cookbook for my collection, would be fab to win it! Love your blog, thank you!

  8. Gaynor main 2 May 2014

    Just recently discovered donna hay and love her books have even started sky + her on good channel would love to win this book

  9. Barbara Burt 2 May 2014

    “Do I need any more cook books?” If it is written by Donna Hay then the answer has to be yes, please enter my name in the competition!

  10. Yanthi 2 May 2014

    You are real inspiration for me! The 22th of may will be my last exam at high school, after that I have over 3 months to cook, fotograph and visit festivals. I can use this book 🙂

  11. grannie-mad 2 May 2014

    LOVE your blog with amazing recipes and photography

  12. Pamela Shield 2 May 2014

    You can never have enough cookbooks seems to be my mantra!! Even at 72, I am still inspired to create, even if it is on a budget. Love your recipe and love Donna Hay as well!!

  13. bluebirdsunshine 2 May 2014

    Love Donna Hay’s styling and recipes, and this new book sounds great! That pasta dish looks delish too, I think my children would love it.

  14. Anita Menon 2 May 2014

    Amazing looking dish. So fresh! Donna Hay is popular world wide and that includes the Middle east too. Would love to have her book!

  15. Sandra 3 May 2014

    I am very new to blogging sites but am now hooked, thank you for entering me into this fabulous world of bloggers, you were my first x

  16. Jacqueline Anderson 3 May 2014

    Donna Hay’s recipe books are works of art and the recipes themselves delicious.

  17. June 3 May 2014

    This is exciting! We should all eat like that…Fresh and Light. Looking forward to making these recipes.


  18. Corrie 3 May 2014

    Love Fresh and Light!!

  19. Bel 3 May 2014

    You did a pretty good job arranging the spaghetti on the dish.
    I saw Donna Hay do this once by twirlíng the plate with the pasta held with tongs above it. Actually, I think it was her assistant, but it turned out like in the books. =)

    • Eat, Little Bird 4 May 2014

      I think I saw Donna Hay do this on an episode of MasterChef. I think I need more practice 😉

  20. Jo 3 May 2014

    Looks great Thanh, I can’t see how this is less beautiful than a cookery book photo! In my opinion blogs are more beautiful because they are real life :). I already make something like this dish with fresh tuna steak that I tend to leave whole. It sure is delicious!

  21. Libby Hayes 3 May 2014

    I have just seen this lovely cookbook in my local bookshop……in Dutch. I would love a copy in English!

  22. Billie 3 May 2014

    What a wonderful looking dish. I was first introduced to Donna Hay while living in Australia and fell in love with her food and style. She comes across so down to earth which is a joy when so many other food people are not and makes us, the reader aware that we can produce stunning dishes for our families no matter how much (or little) time we have. I would love to be included in this giveaway.

  23. Lee 3 May 2014

    I love the way you style your food. It is magazine worthy. Always looking forward to your new updates! Donna Hay’s cookbook is amazing too. Great recipes.

  24. Johanna 3 May 2014

    I love your blog. Have been cooking and baking some of the dishes from your posts and was always successful! This spaghetti dish is next! Would love to win the cookbook.

    All the best from London,


  25. Kate 3 May 2014

    That book looks lovely – just in time for the UK Summers. I really enjoy your blog. Reminds me of home!

  26. Vivienne Collier 3 May 2014

    Hi, love your website and your posts. Would love to win the Donna Hay book as it would remind me of when I lived in Australia. My sister is always telling me about how wonderful her books are, she lives in Sydney !

  27. Julie 3 May 2014

    I have Donna Hay’s “Modern Classics (book 1)” and “Seasons” and I love them both! I would be really thrilled if I were lucky enough to win her new one. Thanks for the opportunity!

  28. Lou Wong 3 May 2014

    Hi, your posts and photos are inspiring. I cook mostly Asian food so Donna Hay’s cookbook would be a welcome addition to my cookbook shelf and give me an opportunity to expand my cooking skills.

  29. Carole 3 May 2014

    I love Donna Hay too. All of her recipes look amazingly tempting, yet always seem very manageable and easy. I only have one of her books but it’s in German and I would much prefer to have one in English! I am sure that your pictures are just as good as hers, you take fantastic pictures!

  30. Christy 3 May 2014

    I love Donna Hay’s books, thanks for the opportunity!

  31. Meryl 3 May 2014

    The cookbook sounds great. Thanks!

  32. Hmm.. your photography makes my mouth water! This looks absolutely perfect! And I totally understand that circumstance with the hungry family in the background… “Can I have a piece of cake?” – “Yaaa, sure, just wait a second (or more like hundreds of seconds…) I’ll just have to take a photo..” (kind of a typical conversation in our home…). Warm, savoury (lunch, dinner and breakfast dishes are the most challenging for me though, ’cause there’s much less time to take photos then there is for a cake which can be baked ahead. So you’ve done such a great work on the photography here! And I think every student and non-student would like to have a meal like this – it really DOES look like it’s taken from a magazin! In this way I’m also happily participating in the giveaway as one can never have enough cookbooks to read, for inspirational hours with recipes and photographies. Thanks!

    • Eat, Little Bird 4 May 2014

      It’s lovely to hear from someone in the same position as I am 🙂 Yes, hot and savoury dishes are always more tricky to photograph because the food starts to change colour and form from the heat, plus you also want to serve the food while it’s still hot! When I first started blogging, I would take hundreds of photos of the same dish. Thankfully, I’ve cut that down to about 10-20 now, which means just a few minutes of clicking before dinner. Sometimes it means that I won’t have a decent shot to blog about but at least I can serve dinner before my husband rolls his eyes!

  33. Stacey 4 May 2014

    This looks so simple but delicious!

  34. Maxine 4 May 2014

    Hi, your photos always make the food look so tempting and fresh! Great giveaway, fingers crossed!

  35. Tina 5 May 2014

    I have just stumbled upon your blog when searching for beef pie recipe! What a great blog you have your photography and yummy food look so inviting. I love Donna Hay recipes they are always a treat. Thanks for the opportunity.

  36. Paula 5 May 2014

    I don’t eat tuna!!! My boyf does, and often with pasta, but I can’t with the smell, so I can’t eat!! I’m a mess!!

    But you know I love your photos, so, as they doesn’t smell here, I’ve been delighted with your squeezer!!!

    I have Fast, fresh, simple, and love that big book, clear and cute photos, and recipes are soooo simple 😀

    I don’t thinkg your plate looks like student’s dinner!!!!!!! 😛
    Although I admire works like Donna Hay or David Loftus, there are blogs that haven’t nothing to envy. And yours is one!!! I always think about your photos immortalized in a book. And I know I’m not the only one who thinks so!!
    Thanks to the blogs, now I buy less books, because blogs have so many photos, and they’re always growing… 😀

    But you know, we never stop collecting books, so, let’s see what happens! 😛 If not, I’m OK with receiving your juicer!! 😛 Just kidding!!!

    Have a nice week, Thanh!!

    • Eat, Little Bird 13 May 2014

      Aww thank you 🙂 That’s so nice of you! And I’m glad to see that you already own a book by Donna Hay – I really love her work. I could look at her pictures all day!

  37. Gourmet Getaways 5 May 2014

    This dish looks light n’ easy yet delightfully tasty. Wish I were Donna’s neighbor :).

    Gourmet Getaways

  38. Radka 5 May 2014

    This looks like a lovely variation for my pasta-tuna craving days:)

  39. I’m a big fan of Anthropologie, too!! Love that lemon juicer!
    I’d took a chance to win the giveaway…the country is Italy!
    thanks for the opportunity!!

  40. GourmetGetaways 6 May 2014

    I love this dish. I also have it on my site as it’s the recipe my husband always choses to cook when it’s his turn in the kitchen. Simple, tasty and quick! Plus we have chilli, lemons and rocket growing in the garden so the ingredients are always on hand.

  41. I just bought a can of tuna yesterday with the intention of tossing it with some salad leaves. Looks like I might be going the pasta route after all….

  42. Julie COok 6 May 2014

    fab giveaway x

  43. Rushi 6 May 2014

    This is one of my favourite pasta combinations and I’ve been a fan of Donna Hay ever since I saw her on Masterchef. Speaking of Masterchef, I’ve always wanted to do that twirling thing with the pasta but have been wayyyyy too lazy to even try. Anyway Donna Hay does have such simple yet scrummy recipes, my mom is a huge huge fan. She always keep gushing over the recipes and she got me hooked on a few.
    Hope all’s well on your end.

    • Eat, Little Bird 13 May 2014

      Hi Rushi!
      Hope you have been well 🙂 Some people complain that Donna Hay’s recipes are a bit too simple, but that’s precisely what I love about her recipes. If anything, my husband appreciates her recipes even more because he finds them to be straightforward and to the point. He finds Nigella’s recipes really difficult to follow with all of her prose! Txx

  44. Tina Burdulis 6 May 2014

    Great combo! W/Italian canned tuna in oil 🙂

  45. Mei 8 May 2014

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. As a working mum (doesn’t where you are), I am always looking for something simple, fresh, flavorful and nutritional to feed the family.

  46. Kim 8 May 2014

    I love Donna Hay cookbooks, they are always so fresh and delicious looking! I am from Australia

  47. I would love to win this book! It’s on my to buy list ;). The recipes look great, easy and fresh. Cheers

  48. Kalyan Panja 9 May 2014

    Fantastic blog with lovely photos and recipes. Greetings from India.

  49. Miss. Lucinda Fountain 9 May 2014

    I would love to be entered for this fantastic cook book giveaway! It sounds brilliant.

  50. Cecilia 9 May 2014

    I hadn’t heard of Donna Hay before I read your blog. She must have come to the forefront after I left Australia. Anyway, since I have started to read your blog, I have researched her recipes and have made quite a few, and very successfully. Thank you for introducing her to me! I do love this type of recipe, quick and easy to make and not to heavy for the digestion. By the way, your food photography is nothing to be sneezed at, I would be very proud if my photos ever come out as well as yours. Well done you!

    • Eat, Little Bird 13 May 2014

      Thanks for the lovely words, Cecilia 🙂 I’m glad you are now a fan of Donna Hay. I think I perhaps appreciated her work more once I moved to Switzerland because her books and magazines feel like my link back to Australia. Plus, I always feel a little homesick everytime I open up the latest issue of her magazine, but at least it still gives me a connection to Aussie cooking 🙂

  51. Shannon 9 May 2014

    I love Donna Hay cookbooks as well- so beautiful and simple.

  52. Amy J 10 May 2014

    Great giveaway! Recipe looks amazing!

  53. Nancy @ gottagetbaked 11 May 2014

    Don’t sell yourself short, Thanh. Your photography and the styling is absolutely beautiful. Donna Hay-worthy. Honestly. I’m not just saying that in the hopes that it’ll sway the results of the cookbook give-away 😉 This is exactly the light, flavourful kind of meal I want to eat now that we’re entering spring and summer. Lovely!

  54. Wendy Hatton 11 May 2014

    More delicious inspiration. Yum!

  55. Simona 11 May 2014

    Beautiful book!

  56. Natalia 11 May 2014

    I have an extremely busy week ahead, so I will definitely be trying this one out!

  57. Sushma 12 May 2014

    Recipe looks simple and flavourful. Thanks for sharing.

  58. Margaret-Anne Kerschke 12 May 2014

    I’m not usuallu a huge fan of tuna but this actually looks quite yummy!

  59. Jen Ear 13 May 2014

    I can’t believe something so pretty could be so easy to make! Thank you for yet another awesome recipe and for introducing me (a relatively novice cook) to Donna Hay. I’ve been making dishes from her website ever since I found this one and it’s been magical. ^_^

  60. Lynna 13 May 2014

    I love Donna Hay`s style too! The one thing I love about pasta dishes is how simple it can be!

  61. PAULINE 13 May 2014

    You are so right, Donna is such an inspiration. Only seen her guest appearances on Masterchef Australia which we get to see here in South Africa but that is enough to make want to clear a place for her on my cookbook shelf. And as we are all in need of something “Fresh and light” to inspire us to healthier eating – way to go! I too am guilty of the wait-don’t-eat-till-I’ve-taken-a-photo brigade may I doff my lens cap to you for a superb photo – light and fresh 🙂 And I don’t even have a blog – mine is more of a block; I need to take photos of the meal in order to remember what I made 😉 As always – sending you sunshine from South Africa to Zurich. BTW loved your Mother’s Day Sprungli gift, jealous.

    • Eat, Little Bird 13 May 2014

      Oh I love that you take photos to remember what you made! I wish I was as organised. I used to write down everyday what I cooked, and I did this for several years. But once the little one arrived, that habit went out the window! Hope all is well for you back in South Africa 🙂

  62. Fiona 14 May 2014

    I am from Australia. Love Donna Hay – she brings ordinary food to life!

  63. mirka 14 May 2014

    perfect spring lunch! I can’t believe that my man who hates all kind of seafood ate this one. 🙂

  64. Helen 15 May 2014

    I have loved Donna Hay’s recipte books for as long as I can remember – I fell in love with the photography and then discovered I could cook them too! Brilliant.

  65. Else 15 May 2014

    What a wonderful recipe! My aunt is a long-time fan of Donna Hay’s and introduced me to her cooking two years ago. I absolutely agree with you about her styling and simple recipes. Always delicious! My sister who also cooks has been a longtime fan of Bobby Chin and cooked a 4-course Vietnamese feast once. Since then I’ve become quite a fan of Vietnamese cooking; as you say fresh! and so delicious.

    Comments don’t lend themselves to storytelling…blogs are better for that. Thank you for your beautiful blog. Having a german heritage, an international cuisine appetite and having visited Switzerland many of your recipes are both delightfully new and inspiring, but also familiar, like Rueblikuche. I love reading your stories. Maybe one day you’ll have a cookbook I can buy?

    Else 🙂

  66. Annette 15 May 2014

    The images look delicious.

  67. Marie Roche 2 June 2014

    Hi, may I ask you where you bought your “presse agrume” ? I would love to find one similar… Merci 🙂

    • Eat, Little Bird 3 June 2014

      Hi Marie,
      I bought the lemon juicer from Anthropologie. I’m not sure if they still sell it but they always have lovely kitchen things and you might find something similar. Hope this helps!

  68. Sharon Steed 3 June 2014

    I would love to win a copy of your book – your recipe looks and sounds gorgeous 🙂

    Can’t wait to try it 🙂

  69. Madeleine 30 March 2018

    My family loved this recipe! I left out the chillies for the children, and it also works great with baby spinach.

  70. Julia 16 April 2018

    I want to try it for dinner! It looks very tasty! Thanks for the great recipe!