Another day, another library book to try out. This time a recipe from Simple Pleasures by Alfred Portale. It's a nice cookbook, to be sure...good photos, simple recipes using good but easy-to-find ingredients. The recipe I chose was fettuccine with preserved tuna, capers and olives. Preserved tuna? as in canned tuna? Heck yeah...cheap-ass dinners are always a plus. Hold up! He advises that we use high-quality tuna...like tuna we've preserved ourselves or the fancy imported from Italy stuff in olive oil. I had recently noticed some of this fancier, more expensive canned tuna at the grocery store. The recipe was the perfect opportunity to see why it cost more than double the good ol' chicken of the sea pantry classic (Is it chicken? Or is it fish?).
Okay, I'm a convert. The fancy-pants olive oil tuna was indeed a step above Charlie Tuna. Moist, good, mild flavor. It will probably be a new staple in the iron stef pantry. Alfred did not say whether or not to drain the olive oil before adding it to the pasta. So I drained some of the oil and left some in.
Though I was intrigued by this recipe and drawn to it, I was worried that all these strong flavors...tuna, anchovies, olives, capers...would be too much...too crazy...to strong.
In the end, the flavors all worked together. However, it was quite strong and rich. We could only eat a fraction of what we'd normally eat when we eat pasta. Which is not a bad thing...especially for my thighs. We also found, thanks to the abundant amount of leftovers, that this is much better eaten cold the next day, like a pasta salad, I suppose. That said, next time, I would use a pasta like penne or rigatoni, to make this more of a pasta salad. When it comes to pasta dishes, I like to either stab or twirl, not both. For long noodles that require twirling, I prefer a smooth sauce, no chunks. For chunky sauces, I like bite-sized pastas, so I can get everything in one fork jab.
Like I said, these flavors were strong, but they worked! Jack even combined the same ingredients a few nights later, sans pasta, to make a bruschetta topping. Yum! And now the recipe, slightly altered from the book's version...
fettuccine with preserved tuna, capers and olives
1 lb. dried fettuccine
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 anchovy fillets, rinsed, dried and minced
1 ½ cups canned tomato puree
2 Tablespoons capers
¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
3 cans good quality tuna preserved in olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chopped flat-leaf parsley
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just al dente…about 7 minutes
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide, deep pan over medium. Add the garlic and cook until golden-brown, about 2 minutes. Add the anchovies and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomato puree and the capers.
Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain pasta. Stir the tuna and the olives into the sauce, then gradually stir in the pasta cooking water until the sauce attains a pleasing consistency. Add the hot pasta and toss. Season and toss again. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.
Mmmm...notice the ceasar salad? Jack used the remainder of the anchovies and made the dressing from scratch! It's the only way to go!!