Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mediterranean tuna pasta: a recipe

Mediterranean tuna pasta
Here's a super-quick way to get a huge dose of your weekly Omega-3s!

A few weeks ago I signed up to be a recipe tester for Food52's weekly community picks. It's a cool concept: the editors pick a theme (e.g., chocolate and spice, celery, canned fish) and readers submit their original recipes that revolve around that theme. Finalists are chosen by the editors, who then ask readers to test those finalist recipes. Each recipe tester submits her/his notes about the dish, which are then featured on the page for that recipe, along with the author's notes.

It was a fun way to try out a new recipe and be able to share my thoughts with a cooking community, in only about 100 words, rather than a whole blog post.

The week I chose a recipe, the theme was canned fish, and the recipe I chose was entitled "One Man's Pantry Spaghettini with Tuna and Tomato"; it served as the basis for my variation that you're reading about right now. I liked the idea of the recipe (originally inspired by a Marcela Hazen recipe) but, I have to admit, the author's instructions, measurements, etc. were all a bit too loosey-goosey and cutesy for me (sorry).

As I wrote in the recipe notes I submitted, I love that this recipe calls for pantry staples (well, anchovies are a staple for the Ninj, anyway) and came together so quickly, making it a perfect weeknight meal. Also, as the author of the original recipe noted and I agree, this recipe really benefits from a higher-quality-than-Starkist tuna, one that can retain a more meaty texture throughout cooking; it makes the dish more substantial.

And if you've never melted anchovies, you are in for a serious treat. The warm oil breaks down the soft fish until it is virtually creamy, with all that anchovy goodness really infusing the oil. I use this method to make a warm Caesar salad dressing that is just too freaking good for words.

Do you have an awesome canned fish or other pantry staple recipe? The Ninj wants to hear about it.

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta (inspired by One Man's Pantry via Food 52)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 5-ounce cans good-quality tuna packed in oil, partially drained
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 anchovies, chopped
2-3 tablespoons capers (depending on how much you love them)
1/2 cup pitted olives (I have used all Kalamata, as well as a combo of green and Kalamata)
10-12 ounces whole wheat pasta (I used spaghetti but bucatini would rock here)

Cook pasta according to package directions (attempt to time it so it is done at the same time as the sauce).

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the anchovies and stir until they break apart and melt. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 20-30 seconds).

Stir in the tomatoes and cook over medium-low heat about 6-8 minutes, until beginning to break down. Add the olives and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes. (The mixture will really begin to look nice and saucy at this point.) Finally, lower the heat and stir in the tuna, being careful to leave it fairly chunky, and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until your pasta is ready.

Toss the pasta and the sauce. You can season it with salt and pepper to taste at this point, but I found the anchovies alone added enough brineyness for us.


  1. What a fun thing to do. I love this recipe!

  2. Must make this soon!!! So many of my favorite ingredients rolled into one! :-D

  3. Definitely let me know what you think when you make it -- enjoy!

  4. Hi! You asked for other canned fish ideas, so here goes. I apologize in advance that I don't measure anything, so I'm just guessing on amounts, but really, everything is to taste. I take two cans of good quality oil-packed tuna, drain it, and combine it with the zest and juice of one lemon (two if it's not that zesty/strong), 1/4 cup minced red onion, a few tablespoons of good olive oil, salt, pepper, and MOST IMPORTANTLY smoked paprika (start with one tablespoon and then more if needed, to taste). You can add capers, diced black olives, diced pimentos, flat leaf parsley, or anything else that you'd like. This is great served on crackers or pita chips. It's also great mixed together with any cooked cut pasta and served at room temperature - I've brought the pasta salad version to pot-lucks and it's always a hit. Enjoy!

  5. That sounds like a great one, Shanette, I will give it a try. I'm always looking for a quick and easy pasta salad for the summer.