October 08, 2009

Pasta al Tonno

Most couples have a song. Roberto and I have a pasta dish. It's not something we make all the time. It's an understudy of sorts. When we've exhausted marinara, pesto, carbonara, aglio e olio, etc., etc., etc., pasta al tonno takes center stage.

I love the smell of the garlic and olive oil over a low flame. Ladles of pasta water to keep things loose. Bubbles and bubbles dancing around the rim of the pan. Parsley swimming about with flecks of red pepper. The tuna warming and co-mingling with tiny bits of onion.

I'll always hold a certain affection for this dish. It was the first thing Roberto ever cooked for me. My perception and understanding of food changed forever because of it. The first bite was like nothing I had ever experienced.

The behaviors and dynamic in the kitchen of an Italian household are unique. While I'm not Italian I have adopted this lifestyle for myself. I chose it...or did it choose me? Maybe we just found eachother, Roberto was the catalyst. His energy in the kitchen, his skill and the history of those before him show up in each and every dish he touches. I'm lucky enough to witness it, lucky enough to absorb it. I'm learning.

People ask me 'How can you eat pasta every day?' I honestly don't have an answer. I just do. It's what we do. It's like oxygen. It gives life to our tired blood. It fuels us. Awakens our spirits. It's the canvas with which we are able to paint our kitchen story.

I can't think of a better way to bring a group of people together than a big bowl of pasta sitting front and center, family style, at the kitchen table. 'Mangia! Mangia!' as I refill their glasses of wine. And when the bowl is empty and everyone is looking for an inconspicuous or conspicuous way to wipe their plates clean we'll ask them if they're ready for secondo. It's all smiles, just unadulterated happiness.

I get chills just thinking about it.


  1. awwh tracy, that is so sweet. Ned has the same energy and spirit in the kitchen, I am so thankful. :-D

  2. That was lovely, I wish my sweetie liked tuna other than raw. :-(

  3. Sounds lovely, what's your husband's recipe?

  4. Lee, coat the bottom of your pan with a generous amount of olive oil. To that you ad a clove of finely chopped garlic and about a tablespoon of shallot and a nice shake of crushed red pepper. Sauté for a minute or so over a low flame. While the pasta is boiling take a few ladles of water and add it to the pan. Give everything a good stir. Throw in a can of oil packed tuna (we drain a good bit of oil from the can). Toss in hefty bit of parsley and simmer everything. Add more oil if things look to watery. There should be a good bit of liquid in the pan. When the pasta is ready, pull it right from the pot with tongues (long pasta) or scoop (short pasta). Give everything a good stir. Monitor the liquid and be sure to salt and pepper along the way. We taste the liquid in the pan as we go to make sure the salt is on track. I always add a touch more parsley once things are plated along with a little more crushed red pepper because I like it hot. I also grate a nice bit of parm. Good luck!

  5. so interesting you wrote about people asking how you can eat pasta every day... whenever we get back from italy everyone asks us the same thing - even though it may have only been a two week period of time. pasta is butchered in america. people over sauce, over top, over cook and just plain ruin it. when it is cooked right it is the star of the show (which, i know you know).... but most people don't really understand this or know just how good pasta can be.

    as for this dish, it's one of my husband and i's favorites. we usually blister some cherry tomatoes thrown into our pasta con tonno. our recipe is very similar to yours! we add all the tuna oil in to ours b/c i just love the concentrated flavor and, like you, lots of garlic and some pasta water. ahhhh, so good.

  6. We are never full...I've learned so much about eating through my Italian sweetie and his family. Pasta is like breathing...you need it every day or you die. :) Tomato would be outstanding in this dish. I'll have to throw some in next time. Thanks for the inspiration!


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