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The Other Tuna: Packed in Olive Oil

Rich, meaty, and packed with flavor, tuna in olive oil is a tastier choice when you want the tuna to shine

Fine Cooking Issue 79
Photos: Scott Phillips
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You wouldn’t think of canned tuna as a gourmet food that’s so good you’d eat it straight from the can—unless it’s high quality and packed in olive oil, that is.

While the familiar canned tuna in water is fine mixed with mayo and smeared between two pieces of bread, when you want the tuna to really shine—like in Niçoise salad or a pasta sauce—tuna in olive oil is a much tastier choice. It has it all: It’s rich and meaty, moist from the oil, and packed with satisfying tuna flavor.

Tunas packed in olive oil are generally made with yellowfin tuna instead of albacore, and they’re filleted and canned by hand, resulting in larger, appealing chunks. Many olive-oil-packed tunas come in jars, but cans are available, too, and tend to be less expensive. Our hands-down favorite is Ortiz Bonito del Norte, but with a price of up to $11 for a 6-oz. jar, it’s probably beyond what most are willing to fork out for canned (or jarred) food, no matter how good. We found that Genova offers decent quality tuna in olive oil at a much more affordable price (less than $3 for a 6-oz. can).

The “caviar” of tuna

Our round-up of tunas wouldn’t be complete without a very special kind of canned tuna: ventresca. Ventresca is the prized belly meat of the tuna, what the Japanese call toro and use for the highest quality, most expensive sushi and sashimi. Olive-oil-packed ventresca is truly in a category of its own. Made from yellowfin (and sometimes bluefin) tuna, it has a soft, buttery, silky texture and a rich, complex flavor that blew us away. We vowed this would be the only canned tuna we’d ever eat again— until we saw the price tags (a 4-ounce can easily goes for $15). We’re partial to the Spanish brand Zoe Diva Select ($6.99 for a 4-oz. can) for its complex flavor, fruity notes, and good price-to-quality ratio, but we also liked Callipo ($9.99 for a 4.4-oz. can) and Ortiz ($14.99 for a 4-oz. can).


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