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Monday, August 22, 2005

Mmmm . . . T-t-t-tuna!
Alright ladies, I am finally embarking on this whole blog thing with my own dear little entry here. Where better to start than with an Erin classic? Tuna pasta is my true stand-by dinner--it's very easy to make, and always tastes delicious (even when you get distracted and let it, um, "toast up" a bit, as I have been known to do on occasion). Very importantly, it is one of those lovely foods that tastes good--to me anyway--in all seasons.

I also love this recipe because it was one of the first things I learned to cook in Italy. I had two Italian roommates there. I became very good friends with one, and the other, though stunningly beautiful, was not someone I could say made any impact on my life at all, except in giving me this recipe. She cooked it almost daily, and I was curious and started watching her, then tried to make it myself and, never having been a huge tuna fish fan, was blown away. Like most things I cook, there are a lot of options and variations, so, basic recipe first, suggestions later.

Oh, but before I get to the recipe, I would just like to use this forum as an opportunity to lodge a formal complaint: the Trader Joe's in Beaverton, Oregon does NOT have cheese samples. The outrage! At first I thought it might have been an isolated incident--bad timing, you know, but now I am 0 for 3, and I know the truth--namely, they are cheap bastards.

Now, without further ado,

Tuna Pasta for 2:

  • Enough pasta for 2 (preferably shaped type pasta, rather than long spaghetti or linguini type)
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 good sized onion, chopped
  • 1 can of tuna fish packed in oil*
  • salt
    *I recently learned that light tuna fish has considerably less mercury in it than the regular canned stuff, so I'd recommend it, though I haven't had a chance to test it out, and I'm not positive that you can buy it packed in oil--the recipe is fatty enough that light tuna couldn't hurt anyway


1. Set a pot of salted water to boiling (you all
know the rest on the pasta).
2. Sauté onions in a tablespoon or two of olive oil on medium in a sauce pan for 5 or 6 minutes,
until they are beginning to brown just a little.
3. Drain oil off tuna (I do this because I am a
snob and prefer as much olive oil and as little other oil as possible, but if you are not a snob, then the amount of oil the tuna comes packed in is just about right for cooking it) and add it to the onions. Add a couple more tablespoons olive oil, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 or 10 minutes until tuna begins to brown--if necessary, you can always add more olive oil at any time.
4. Once the onions have really browned up and the tuna begins to brown, raise the heat to medium high or high for a few minutes to crisp up the tuna (but keep a close eye on it during this stage!).--Keep in mind, this recipe is better overcooked than under.

5. Salt (and pepper if you'd like) to taste (a lot of salt tastes really good with this dish), toss with pasta, and die of happiness.


Strange to say, the pasta is absolutely delicious with only these ingredients. However, I've experimented with a variety of other possibilities, all delicious. Mostly, these possibilities involve tomatoes. The simplest would be to just add a little bit of puréed tomato from a can at the end, and then cook that down for a couple of minutes. I have also added some plumped up sun-dried tomatoes --if you've plumped them up in boiling water, then you can just toss them with the tuna and pasta in the end.

Now, the very best variation occurred for the first time during Shannon's and my visit to San Francisco this summer. We went to this quite wonderful posh-ish market down by the waterfront in downtown, and there were these cherry tomatoes that we just couldn't resist. So while the tuna was cooking and the water boiling, I set some more onions a-sautéing in a different pan, and then added some coarsely chopped cherry tomatoes, and let them cook down into a sauce. Then I added the tomatoes to the tuna at the end, and let them cook together a few minutes to mix the flavors. Then at the end I sprinkled some basil cut in Shan's fancy french way (very pretty too!) over all. Sigh. Yum.

Also, basil in general would probably be a good addition even without tomatoes. I highly encourage everyone to experiment with spices or the addition of other vegetables. Curiously, the one additon that isn't amazing is parmesan--not that it's bad, it's just a waste of good parmesan, because it really doesn't improve anything.

So, enjoy ladies, and buon appetito!

posted by Erin at 1:09 AM;

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12:52 AM  
Blogger shan said...

What a delightful entry. Now everyone can enjoy the wonder that is Tuna Pasta!

So, is tuna usually packed in vegetable oil? That hadn't even occurred to me. I just assumed it was olive. =)

2:03 PM  
Blogger katie said...

Oh, thanks, Shmerin. I think I tried to make this once after just sort of idly watching but without any instruction and it was sort of a disaster. So now I can't wait to try it for real. =)

2:15 PM  

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