Pasta al Tonno – Variation


It is very traditional to have a fish-only themed menu on Christmas Eve in most parts of Italy, including Rome.  Also traditional are foods fried in batter such as artichokes, cauliflower, broccolo, apples, cod fish etc.  Spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti in a clam sauce) are always a big hit.  And so is pasta with tuna – not fresh tuna but tuna packed in olive oil.

I stopped buying tuna a few years ago, after reading about the parlous state of this particular fishing industry.  I don’t want to sound all holier than thou over this decision and I am sure I am not the only one.  However, I also keep an optimistic attitude and look into reports on improvements (in Italy’s Mediterranean waters at least) and it would appear that the numbers of tuna have grown to the point that I can now resume eating it without feeling guilty (and being careful, of course, to choose the right brand).

The photos on today’s post were taken at the end of last summer, the tuna being a present from friends who had just returned from a holiday in Puglia.


This tuna was A-star stuff, packed in proper olive oil and not some other substandard seed oil and presented in a glass jar.

IMG_9619 Some tomatoes, a couple of cloves of garlic … and my new kitchen ‘toy’ – a tomato peeler.IMG_9620 You don’t have to peel the tomatoes but I was in raptures of reverent tomato peeling activity and enjoying myself the way little children do when trying out a new toy …IMG_9621 IMG_9622 A couple of anchovy fillets … and some lemon zest (for freshness).IMG_9623 Chop and de-seed the peeled tomatoes … IMG_9624 Cook the garlic (careful that it doesn’t burn, it must cook until it is golden).IMG_9625 Sprinkle salt all over the chopped tomatoes while the garlic is cooking …

IMG_9626Get your pasta out (spaghetti would have been nice but I didn’t have any that day) …
IMG_9627 Add the tomatoes to the frying pan …IMG_9628 After a few minutes, add the anchovy fillets …IMG_9629

Taste … and add a pinch of sugar if necessary.
IMG_9631 It won’t take more than 10 minutes to have this sauce ready.  At that point, add some torn basil leaves and the lemon zest.  Switch off the heat.IMG_9632 Sssssh … don’t tell anyone but I didn’t do such a good job of de-seeding the tomatoes.  Never mind.  I am still alive.IMG_9633 Grate some pecorino cheese.  I think anyone who has been reading my blog for a while is fully aware of my reluctance to engage in cheese grating which is why I do my level best to fob this job to any other family member or friend who happens to be in the vicinity.  It is important to have someone else grate your cheese for you, yes … but it is also important to make sure that the proper sized cheese grater is used.  See the photo above? The holes in the grater are too big … the grated cheese is not ‘fine’ enough for a pasta.  The finer the cheese grated, the easier it will be for the cheese to ‘melt’ completely into the sauce.  I know it sounds silly but it makes all the difference.IMG_9634 While the pasta is cooking … drain the tuna.IMG_9635 When the pasta is just about cooked, transfer it it to the pan with the tomato sauce.  Turn the heat on again and allow the pasta to finish its cooking time directly in the sauce.  If the sauce looks like it’s going to dry out, add some of the cooking water.IMG_9636 Add the tuna last …IMG_9637Combine all the ingredients and switch off heat.
IMG_9638 IMG_9639 The green bits are, I think, a mixture of mint and marjoram.  Parsely would be great too.???????????????????????????????
IMG_9641Add the grated cheese last.

It is not ‘normal’ in Italian cuisine to mix cheese and fish together.  This recipe is one of the exceptions.  As is pasta with mussels and pecorino.

The last time I had made this pasta was in 2011 ! wow!

About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
This entry was posted in Basic Techniques, Fish and seafood, Herbs and plants, italian home food, Primi (first courses - usually a pasta or risotto) and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Pasta al Tonno – Variation

  1. I love the traditional fish dinner on Xmas Eve, although it’s become troublesome in our family with our fish-phobic new generation… By the way, although pasta al tonno is a favorite in our house—I probably make it once a week—I’ve never tried it with cheese. I’ll make it that way next time (perhaps tonight, since it’s Friday) and see.

  2. Lovely blog u have here, with a truly Italian spirit (I am an Italian cook living in
    London). I came across you searching for “carbonara + frozen yolks” (lovely recipe,btw).
    Pasta col tonno: glad to hear that tuna is recovering in Italy (?.. Italians finally eating less sushi??…). for a different and delicious pasta col tonno, do you know that there is an excellent recipe by Hazan, in Marcella’s Kitchen I think. it is an uncooked sauce/a crudo: the tuna is mixed with cream and a little butter…It does not sound very Italian, I know…but do try it, really del! (Possibly with also a little lemon and parsley)( if interested I can dig out the recipe), I will keep on exploring your blog now. Ciao. Stefano

    • Ciao Stefano, and nice to get to know you ! Thank you for all your compliments and suggestions and yes, if you find the time, I would love to know more about Marcella’s tuna recipe. Am getting busy preparing dinner for la vigilia (mostly fish, as you know) … bagna cauda with crudités, insalata russa, insalata di riso venere con gamberoni, ostriche, fritti (carciofi, broccolo, baccalà, mele) e spaghetti Verrigni ajo, ojo con pecorino e acciughina fritta – che ne dici? A very Merry Christmas to you Stefano, and all the best for the coming New Year ! 🙂

      • insalata russa… many English people sneer at it, then, when they taste the real Mccoy, the fall in love with it…Baccala’ is a hard sale here, artichokes are impossible to find (you get some old specimens in some Turkish groceries). I like yr Vigilia feast (what for dessert?? 🙂 )
        all the best for the new year…. I seldom read Italian papers now… I find the whole thing too depressing… Italy the beautiful country constantly in some sort of crisis.. yet (perhaps because I come from rich and efficient Milano)(which is also the most mafiosa city in Italy of course and ridden with corruption) there is a certain quality of life in Italy that is very difficult to define and difficult to fine abroad… ok I stop here, it is the emigrante in me now that is talking…. 🙂

        Fettuccine col sugo di tonno con aglio e panna
        from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen
        4/6 portions

        7 oz good quality tuna packed in olive oil
        ½ tsp garlic, chopped fine
        2 tbsp parsely
        1 egg lightly beaten
        3 tbsp room temperature softened butter
        ⅔ cup heavy cream
        salt and black pepper
        ½ cup parmigiano + more for the table
        fettuccine made with 3 large eggs

        1. drain tuna and put it in a mixing bowl
        2. add garlic, egg, butter, cream, salt, liberal grinding pepper and ½ cup cheese. mix well and check for salt and pepper
        3. cook pasta and dress it with sauce
        4. more cheese at the table

        my notes> I always add a little lemon zest and chopped parsley

      • Altro che l’insalata di rinforzo napoletana ! questa ricetta risusciterebbe i morti per quanto è ‘ricca’ ! 🙂

  3. Karen says:

    I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Jo. Wishing you all the best for the New Year.

  4. Pingback: Pasta col Tonno Sfiziosa – ‘Fussy’ Pasta with Tuna | Frascati Cooking That's Amore

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