This Japanese-Style Tuna Mushroom Pasta is full of flavors and incredibly easy to make! With pantry staples like butter, canned seafood and a bottle of Mentsuyu (Japanese noodle soup base), you can instantly make delicious pasta for a low-lift weeknight dinner.
There are plenty of reasons why pasta is so universally loved. Even for the Japanese home cooks, pasta are the holy grail of time-saving, pantry-friendly, kid-friendly, low-fuss kind of meals.
Need a quick dinner? Raid your pantry for some kind of pasta, canned fish, bottled seasoning, and you can rustle up a flavorful meal like this Japanese-style Tuna Mushroom Pasta (ツナときのこのパスタ) in no time. What a life saver on busy nights!
Effortless Japanese-style Pasta with Pantry Staples
Whenever I make a Japanese-style pasta, I often turn to my Japanese pantry staples. It is as simple as combining soy sauce with butter to create a Japanese flair for whatever pasta I can find. Other ingredients can be local, in-season vegetables, canned or fresh seafood or bacon or tofu or mushroom. As far as the variety goes, the sky is the limit!
For a flavor boost, I may add a spoonful of miso. For nuttiness, a drizzle of sesame oil does the trick. For final Japanese touches, a sprinkle of shredded nori or furikake seasoning or a scatter of julienned shiso leaves is always welcome.
By keeping things flexible and minimal, these pantry essentials allow me to make a satisfying pasta dinner with little to no effort.
How to Make Japanese Style Tuna Mushroom Pasta
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Japanese mushrooms of your choice – I highly recommend using Japanese mushrooms like shiitake, shimeji, maitake, enoki mushrooms, etc.
- Canned tuna – Not only it is a convenient, great pantry item, but it also adds great flavors. Not a fan of tuna? Swap it with other protein or more meaty mushrooms like portobello or king oyster mushrooms.
- Kobucha (Kombu-cha) – This salted powdered kombu adds saltiness and umami kombu essence to the pasta. It’s sold in the tea section of the Japanese grocery stores. It can be substituted with salt if you can’t find one.
- Sake – You can use white wine (dry sherry)
- Mentsuyu (or soy sauce) – Mentsuyu is a noodle soup base we use in Japanese cooking. You can make it yourself or just buy a bottle of mentsuyu at Japanese/Asian grocery stores.
- Butter – It adds sweetness, creaminess, and fragrance, but also a sublime match with soy sauce and mentsuyu.
- Shredded nori seaweed – You can buy shredded nori or cut a sheet of nori into julienned strips yourself.
- Shiso leaves – I love adding shiso to Japanese-style pasta. If it’s hard to get, you can use scallions or other green herbs or grow your own!
Overview of Cooking Steps
- Start boiling pasta water while you prep all the ingredients.
- While cooking pasta, saute mushrooms and tuna. Season the ingredients.
- Toss everything together with cooked pasta.
3 Important Tips to Make Good Pasta
- Salt your pasta cooking water – Salt increases the boiling point of the water, so it will cook at the optimal temperature.
- Cook pasta to al dente – Since we’ll be sautéing the cooked pasta in the frying pan with the other ingredients, I typically cook pasta one minute less for best texture.
- Reserve at least 1/4 cup (60 ml) of pasta cooking water – The salted pasta cooking water helps loosening the pasta, and adding extra flavor and moisture to the pasta sauce.
Other Quick Japanese-Style Pasta Recipes You’ll Love:
- Japanese-style Pasta with Shrimp and Broccolini
- Creamy Napa Cabbage and Bacon Pasta
- Ume Shiso Pasta
- Miso Butter Pasta with Tuna and Cabbage
- Creamy Miso Pasta with Tofu and Asparagus
Japanese style Mushroom & Tuna Pasta
- 1.8 oz shimeji mushrooms (½ package; You can use other types of mushrooms)
- 3 shiitake mushrooms (or other types of mushrooms)
- 3 cremini mushrooms
- 1 can tuna in oil/water (5 oz, 142 g; drained)
- 8 oz spaghetti (4 oz, 113 g per person)
- 1 ½ Tbsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (for cooking pasta)
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
For the Sauce
- ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp kobucha (kombucha) (or substitute with ¼ tsp kosher salt; This is not kombucha, the fermented drink. This powdered "tea" is made from kombu seaweed.)
- 2 Tbsp sake
- 2 Tbsp mentsuyu/tsuyu (noodle soup base) (concentrated; my homemade mentsuyu recipe; please adjust the amount based on your mentsuyu brand; You can substitute with 1 ½ Tbsp soy sauce)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- Gather all the ingredients.
Prepare the Ingredients
- Discard the bottom of the shimeji mushrooms and separate them.
- Discard the stem of shiitake mushrooms and cut the caps into slices.
- Discard the bottom of the cremini mushrooms and cut the caps into slices. Combine all the mushrooms on a plate/tray.
- Roll up the shiso leaves and cut them into julienned strips.
- Open the canned tuna and press the lid down to squeeze excess oil. Boil 4 QT (16 cups, 3.8 L) water in a large pot. Once boiling, add 1 ½ Tbsp salt.
- Cook the spaghetti 1 minute less than the package instructions (you will cook a bit more with the sauce). You should be able to finish the following step before the pasta is done cooking. If your pasta is done cooking first, reserve 4 Tbsp (60 ml) of pasta cooking water, drain, and set aside.
- In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat and add all of the mushrooms.
- Sauté for 30-60 seconds to coat the mushrooms with oil, and then add the canned tuna.
- Season with freshly ground black pepper and kobucha (or kosher salt)
- Add sake, mentsuyu, and butter and mix all together.
- Reserve 4 Tbsp (¼ cup, 60 ml) of pasta cooking water and add to the pasta sauce.
- Taste the sauce and adjust if needed. At this stage, the sauce should have a strong flavorful taste, not bland. If your pasta is not done cooking, turn off the heat and cover so the pasta sauce will not evaporate.
- Drain the pasta into a colander OR scoop the pasta from the pot. Add the pasta to the sauce. Toss the sauce and pasta well.
- Transfer the pasta to individual plates and garnish with shredded nori seaweed and shiso leaves.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for a month.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 24, 2011. The images and post content have been updated in May 2021.