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Fettuccine with Tuna, Lemon & Fried Capers

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Serves 4

  • To learn more, read:
    Pasta from the Pantry
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 81

Don't be afraid to pair tuna with strong flavors that can stand up to it. In this recipe, crisp capers, thin slivers of garlic, and bright strips of lemon zest do just that. And in order to bring out the nutty flavor of the pasta, add a couple of teaspoons of kosher salt to the cooking water. The water should taste salty, like the ocean.

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup small (nonpareil) capers, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 12-oz. can or 2 6-oz. cans solid white tuna in water, drained well
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 lb. dried fettuccine
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

Using a zester tool (called a channel knife), zest the lemon into thin strips, or, using a vegetable peeler, shave off the zest, then slice into very thin strips. Juice the lemon to get 2 Tbs. juice.

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium heat. Add the capers and cook until they start to brown and get crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and cook until it starts to crisp and curl up, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers and lemon zest to a plate lined with a paper towel—it’s fine if a few capers remain in the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium low, add the garlic to the remaining oil in the pan and cook, stirring, until it browns lightly but doesn’t burn, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tuna and red pepper flakes and cook until the tuna just heats through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine in the boiling salted water, stirring often, until it’s just tender to the tooth (see the package for cooking time). Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.

Return the sauté pan to medium heat. Add the drained pasta, 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, 2 Tbs. of the lemon juice, and the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Cook, tossing and stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes to blend the flavors. If the pasta isn’t tender, add the remaining cooking water and continue to cook and stir until done. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice.

Serve immediately, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with the capers, lemon strips, parsley, and a few grinds of black pepper.

Serving Suggestions

Start the meal with Fennel & Orange Salad with Red Onion & Olives.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on four servings; Calories (kcal): 610; Fat (g): fat g 24; Fat Calories (kcal): 210; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 3.5; Protein (g): protein g 32; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 16; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 66; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 860; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 35; Fiber (g): fiber g 3;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This recipes was delicious and quick. The fried capers were amazing, becoming nutty and delicious. I always keep a jar or two of imported Italian tuna in olive oil for those weeknights when I want to make something quick for dinner. It has a much better texture and flavor that the typical canned stuff. I think this plus using capers packed in salt rather than the brined capers makes this recipe extra special.

Made minor inconsequential (sp?) substitions, but WOW, this was a fantastic surprise! There is a TON going on with this dish! Layers upon layers of flavors. This will be one I will make repeatedly. Thank you!

Was afraid my hubby wouldn't like the lemon strips but, that was the first thing he commented on. He loved them! This is super easy and so good!

i didn't use the capers or parsley and it still came out perfect! so yummy and easy!

so easy, so quick, and all ingredients are in my pantry.

I made with whole wheat pasta and thought it was delicious. I loved the fried capers.

I tried this when it first came out and really enjoyed it. It has become a go to recipe for a quick pantry meal. I love the tang of lemon against the bite of capers. Tried it once with oil packed tuna, but it seemed too heavy. I do use salt packed capers, rinsed, which I think come out with a bit more crunch than brine packed.

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