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Pasta al Tonno! -Pasta with Italian Tuna!

(reposted from my old blog from 2009!)

From the Fall of 2005 to the end of the summer in 2006, we lived in Italy. We were in my dad’s hometown of Roseto Valfortore. It is a beautiful little town up in the mountains of southern Italy. There were so many things we did and learned that it is going to be the subject of one of my books someday, but in the meantime, I can share some of the things I learned– especially the recipes– right here! One day while I was getting my hair cut, I was talking to the girl cutting my hair and she asked what I was cooking that day…which is often a topic of conversation anytime in the morning between women! I said I didn’t know yet and asked what she was making…and she told me Pasta al Tonno…..which is Pasta with Tuna. Well, all I could think of was “YUCK”!!(altho I didn’t say that!!)…. in my life’s experiences, the only time I had heard of the combination of any kind of pasta and tuna was what most Americans know of as “Tuna Noodle Casserole” . Now I will admit…I have never tasted one of these casseroles as just the thought of tuna, pasta and ANY kind of creamed canned soup made me think of this movie I saw once where the guy used a can of creamy soup to pretend to throw up and that’s all I can think of!!!!! Yuckyyyyyy!!! OK so back to my conversation about dinner…so I politely asked how you make it since I was trying to be open minded about everything new I was experiencing over there that year….after my initial “inner reaction” I have to say I was curious how they would make something like that in Italy! (***I must also make note of the fact that in my town, there are specific types of dishes you make on certain days…well Wednesdays and Fridays are FISH. Wednesdays because that is when the “fish guy” comes to town…and Fridays…well while we only eat fish on Fridays during Lent, in Italy they eat fish on Friday all year long!!! ) Well, I was pleasantly surprised that the recipe actually sounded interesting… SO…I decided I was going to try to make it. WOW!!! It was SOOOOOO GOOD!!!!! This has since become one of my signature dishes around here that my sons friends all want to try when they are here and I have given it to so many of my friends whose kids and husbands love it too. What a hit it has become! On top of everything else…it is SO incredibly easy that anyone can make it! So here it is….

Pasta al Tonno Ingredients: Olive oil, onion, canned ITALIAN tuna packed in olive oil(Genova brand seems to be the most common over here) tomatoes (either canned sauce or canned whole or even whole fresh tomatoes) peas or zucchini and heavy cream! ….oh…and don’t forget the pasta!!! I like it with the Farfalle (bowties), Rotini or some other kind of “nook and cranny” type of pasta that the tuna can get caught in!!! Of course any kind will do but these are my favorites.

This is what you do….

  • Start with a large pot of water on high to boil for the pasta—by the time the pasta is done so will be the sauce so get it all going at once.(don’t forget to put a good tbsp of salt in the water!)Once the pasta is done drain it and put back in the pot. This will be in the works while you are making the sauce.

  • OK NOW….Saute half a large or a whole medium onion in olive oil in a large frying pan (or saute pan or whatever you want to call it!!!)

  • toss in the tuna with the oil it’s packed in (I have a family of 8 so I use 2-4 cans depending on what else I am having for dinner, how heavy I want to make it depending on how hungry everyone is or how many cans I actually have in the pantry!! but that being said... 1 can is good for 2-3 people)

  • now saute the tuna with the onions for a few and then add the tomatoes. ( I want to specify that if you are using fresh tomatoes, I would cut them up and saute them with the onions. If you are using canned whole tomatoes I like to crush them with my hands in a bowl or if you like to cut them

into neat little pieces then that is up to you but crushing them releases more flavor…or maybe that is just my imagination! As for canned crushed or sauce add them after the onions are nice and clear)

  • let all of this cook for a bit until nice and bubbly and the onions, tomatoes and tuna have all “melded” together a bit.

  • Add salt and pepper to sauce.

  • add peas and let cook for a few…(I use frozen peas, canned are too mushy but of course if you have fresh …woohoo!)

  • now by this time the pasta should be done or almost done….

  • so when you are just about done, add a nice big dollop of heavy cream ( I have never measured it out, I just pour from the container but I will guess about 1/4 to 1/2 cup or so…but really play with it and see what you like–or how much fat content you want!!!)

  • stir a bit to mix, then if your pan is big enough pour the pasta into the sauce…if it isn’t, pour the sauce into the pasta. Toss it all together and serve with a nice piece of Italian bread!

***variation….I also like to use zucchini at times instead of peas….If you use the zucchini, I cut it in half length wise and then slice (like half moons), then I saute them in with the onions at the beginning. Since I don’t like my zucchini too mushy I start with the onions…let them cook for a minute or two and then add the zucchini. So now that you have one of my favorite recipes that I learned in Roseto Valfortore from my friend Maria Grazia I fully expect you to try it! It’s almost a one pot dish that has everything you need in it…grain, veggie and protein! It’s a nice “fill you up” yet you’ll have seconds and thirds “because it tastes so good” dish!!!

I have YET to have anyone not like it!!! I am making it tomorrow nite so I will add a photo after I make it.


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