Pasta al tonno (Pasta with Tuna Sauce)

In pasta, primi piatti by Frank18 Comments

Here’s a quick note on another staple weeknight dinner: pasta al tonno. Very fast and almost as easy as opening a can.

Ingredients

Serves 2-3

  • 200g (7 oz) spaghetti, linguine, penne or other pasta of your choice

For the soffritto:

  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, slightly crushed and peeled
  • 1 red chili pepper (peperoncino)(optional)
  • Olive oil

To complete the sauce:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) passata di pomodoro or crushed canned tomatoes
  • 1 small can of tunafish, packed in olive oil
  • A few anchovy fillets
  • A  handful of capers
  • A few pitted black olives
  • A sprig or two of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Directions

Put your pasta on the boil. The sauce will take no more time than it takes for the water to come to the boil and the pasta to cook.

Begin making your sauce, as for many tomato and other sauces, by frying a clove or two of slightly crushed garlic (and a peperoncino, if you like a little ‘heat’) in some olive oil over gentle heat

As soon as the garlic begins to give off its aroma and very slightly brown, add the tomatoes and simmer them until they are well reduced. Then add a few anchovy fillets, a handful of capers, a few pitted black olives, some chopped parsley and a can of tunafish packed in olive oil. Simmer only for a minute or so and turn off the heat.

When the pasta is cooked very al dente, add it to the tomato and tuna sauce, along with a ladleful of the pasta water. Allow the pasta to simmer in the sauce for a minute or two until it is well coated with the sauce. Serve immediately. Do not serve with grated cheese.

Notes

Like so many other Italian dishes, the success of this dish will depend largely on the quality of your ingredients. So find the best imported canned tomatoes you can find. (One day I’m going to do a post on choosing canned tomatoes–it’s absolutely crucial and, in the US at least, tricky business.)

The tuna is, of course, key. At a minimum, use tunafish packed in olive oil. “Light” tuna packed in spring water and the like will result in a mundane, rather insipid dish. If you can find it (and afford it) there are some excellent premium brands of imported tuna from Sicily. The ‘Ortiz’ brand, from Spain, is also very good. The belly of the tuna, known as ventresca, is the tastiest part. If you can find imported anchovies and capers packed in salt, all to the good–otherwise, anchovy fillets in olive oil and capers in vinegar are acceptable substitutes. Anchovies packed in salt come whole and will need to be filleted and rinsed; the fillets in olive oil can be used as is. Capers. whether packed in salt or vinegar, should be rinsed and squeezed dry.

Finally, try to find small black olives, packed in brine or oil, preferably Gaeta or nicoise. Avoid canned olives–their taste is not characteristic of Italian cooking. If that’s all you can find, feel free to simply omit them. In fact, many recipes, such as the one given by Ada Boni in Il Talismano della Felicità, calls only for tuna and anchovies. Boni tells you to add the anchovies to the oil with the garlic. She also calls for a pinch of oregano, not chopped parsley. Personally, I find that this version provides a more delicate taste–however paradoxical that may sound when talking about these assertive ingredients.

Pasta al tonno can also be made in bianco, or without tomatoes. Just add the tuna and other flavorings directly to the garlic and oil soffritto, and saute for a few minutes. You can also make an entirely raw tuna sauce, in which case you should either omit the garlic (which would be a bit too strong raw) or rub the inside of the bowl in which you are mixing the ingredients with a half clove, to give the dish just a hint of garlic flavor. A more elegant version of this dish can be made with fresh tuna and cherry tomatoes. Here’s the recipe.

Perhaps the most common pasta to dress with this tuna sauce is spaghetti. But short pastas like penne, as well as concave ones like conchiglie, are also nice. Tonight I used—a bit unusually—some orecchiette that were lying around. This was the first time I had tried this combination and found it quite nice, actually.

Pasta al tonno

Rating: 51

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 2-3

Pasta al tonno

Ingredients

  • 200g (7 oz) spaghetti, linguine, penne or other pasta of your choice
  • For the soffritto:
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, slightly crushed and peeled
  • 1 red chili pepper (peperoncino)
  • Olive oil
  • To complete the sauce:
  • 250 ml (1 cup) passata di pomodoro or crushed canned tomatoes
  • 1 small can of tunafish, packed in olive oil
  • A few anchovy fillets
  • A handful of capers
  • A few pitted black olives
  • A sprig or two of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Put your pasta on the boil. The sauce will take no more time than it takes for the water to come to the boil and the pasta to cook.
  2. Begin making your sauce, as for many tomato and other sauces, by frying a clove or two of slightly crushed garlic (and a peperoncino, if you like a little 'heat') in some olive oil over gentle heat
  3. As soon as the garlic begins to give off its aroma and very slightly brown, add the tomatoes and simmer them until they are well reduced. Then add a few anchovy fillets, a handful of capers, a few pitted black olives, some chopped parsley and a can of tunafish packed in olive oil. Simmer only for a minute or so and turn off the heat.
  4. When the pasta is cooked very al dente, add it to the tomato and tuna sauce, along with a ladleful of the pasta water. Allow the pasta to simmer in the sauce for a minute or two until it is well coated with the sauce. Serve immediately. Do not serve with grated cheese.
http://memoriediangelina.com/2009/10/07/pasta-al-tonno/

Comments

  1. Your recipe for Pasta al tonno has changed! The original version that you had posted did not have any tomato in it. It was strictly oil-based. Although I have not tried this version, I would think that tomato is antithetical to the taste of the tuna. My mother, aunts, grandmother (in the late 30s into the fifties) – all from Abruzzo – always used the oil version. You should post the old version along with this one and let the readers choose.

    Joe Prospero

  2. Found this recipe last week. Made it twice since then. Simple, quick, comfort food. Just right for when you get home after work.Nice it uses store cupboard ingredients.

  3. Frank, this is so reminiscent of my mother's wonderful dishes. There's nothing better than “a little of this; a little of that,” and when it includes garlic, olive oil, and pasta, the results are always perfection. Thanks, as always, for the great recipes.

  4. I absolutely LOVE pasta al tonno, it's so easy amd tasty! My “white” version is also quite fresh and summery, I marinade the olipacked tuna in the juice of half a lemon, add a dash of dried dill and toss the drained pasta in it. Semplicissimo and DIVINO!

    Ciao
    Eleonora

  5. great dish! I love a simple and quick pasta dinner they always succeed in being a very satisfying meal!

  6. Yummy… maybe using ventresca for the sauce would make it rather expensive, at least in Spain it's the most expensive piece of the fish. But it's the richest and tastiest of course!

  7. Frank, once again, beautiful! I love the tips to. I always buy my tuna in olive oil as well as anchovies. I just love them on crusty bread!

  8. Your family photo adds sentiment and is a very nice tribute to your grandmother.
    My sister is the canner in the family, so when I visit her I always return home with a few jars of tomatoes. Otherwise, I really like San Marzano—what about you?

  9. Ah, so even though I don't know the official rules, my instincts were correct that the parm and the tuna would somehow not work … that's fun! I sent you a comment on Foodbuzz – made this for dinner and it's now on the list as a favorite. LOVE it, so good. Everybody make this!!!

  10. Thanks for all the kind comments!

    Tasty Trix, on using grated cheese, it's one of the cardinal rules of Italian cooking that fish and cheese do not mix–although this goes more for aged cheeses than mild ones like mozzarella. For a full discussion (and lively debate!) and the issue, check out the “Italian Food Customs” forum on Foodbuzz. There's a lot of other interesting issues being discussed there as well.

  11. Ok, so you just answered my question “what's for dinner?” yay! Question: why do you emphatically state to not serve this dish with grated cheese? I'm wondering what flavor the addition of cheese would throw out of whack … the tuna?

  12. This is sounds sooooooooooo yummy. We love pasta and I was getting board with the same old recipes. Gonna try this one
    oxo Ildiko

    PS:This is a must fallow blog lol si I'm your fallower

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