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A Flavor-Packed Pasta Made With Canned Tuna

Fine Cooking Issue 48
Photo: Scott Phillips
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The canned tuna that many of us turn to for salads or sandwiches makes a delicious pasta sauce for a quick supper. I finely mince the tuna and stir it into a thick tomato sauce seasoned with fennel seed, garlic, and green olives. You can pair it with penne or rigatoni (I like De Cecco brand) or with long strands like spaghetti or perciatelli.  

For the best results, use only top-quality tuna packed in olive oil, such as the A’s Do Mar brand from Portugal, or Italian brands like Progresso or Cento. I drain the olive oil from the can and replace it in the sauce with more flavorful extra-virgin olive oil. I also add a spoonful of extra-virgin oil at the end, off the heat, for a final burst of flavor. For the green olives, look for a variety that’s not too salty or briny. I like Picholine or Lucques olives from France. Smack them with the side of a wide knife or cleaver, remove the pit, and then quarter or coarsely chop the flesh.  

It’s important to reduce the tomato sauce well before adding the tuna. It should be thick and dry, with no watery juices. Later, to adjust the sauce to the right consistency, I add hot pasta water. (Italian cooks use this technique often to help the sauce coat the pasta evenly.) Cooking the pasta in the sauce for a final minute helps knit the two together.


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