Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Italian Tuna and Olive Pasta

I know what you are thinking. Tuna - yuck! This is not your ordinary tuna dish. It 'ain't your American mom's 'tuna-mac'. This is a very expensive and delightfully bold Italian dish that will amaze you. You should not take any shortcuts on ingredients, either. Buy the absolute best olives and cheese to capture the essence of this meal. First impressions are everything. You can cut corners later after you really know what you will be missing. If you want to wow your dinner guests, this dish is perfect for entertaining (makes enough for at least 6, if not 8). My Italian friends who passed the recipe on to me (after they made it for us and we BEGGED them to teach us how to make it) just toss this together with ease (family favorite of theirs). They throw it together as they go without measuring anything. I have tried to re-create the measurements for you. You can adjust it to suit your own tastes. This is one of my favorite dishes, but we make it very rarely because of how expensive the tuna steaks and other imported ingredients are. I hope you love it as much as I do. If your family is like mine, you will be fighting over the leftovers!

1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil in the whole dish (added in stages)

1 small can of anchovies
6-8 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped or crushed
4 or 5 small tuna steaks, chopped into small cubes (easier to chop when slightly frozen)
20-30 grinds of fresh black pepper or a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes (to taste)
1/3 head of flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped - leaves only
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2-3/4 cup dry white wine (not cooking wine, be sure it is DRY: Chablis Blanc or Pinot Grigio)
Large can of Italian plum tomatoes, crushed (or slightly blended/finely diced fresh tomatoes with juice)
2 tablespoons salt (for cooking in the noodle water)
1 box of whole wheat tubular pasta/or white if you prefer
1/2 jar of black Greek olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus some for the table)
dash of sugar

Bring large pot of water to a rolling boil and add the 2 tablespoons of salt and some olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Cook noodles as per directions on package, drain and set aside.

In a large stove top skillet or wok, toast your garlic in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Toast garlic for a minute or two to release flavor. Mash in your anchovies (they will turn into a fishy paste, but don't let that scare you off... they add a delicious flavor to the end product). Toss in your cubed tuna steak or Italian canned tuna (packed in olive oil). If you use the canned Italian tuna, decrease the recipe's olive oil content as per the amount of oil in the tuna container. Tuna will absorb the olive oil as it cooks. Fry the tuna on medium high heat as you attend the stove, stirring and adding oil as you go. Don't let it get too dry. This phase goes better if you have a kitchen helper because chopping the parsley and pitting and chopping the olives takes some precious time. Sear the tuna and continue to cook and stir as you add ingredients.

Grind in your pepper and add your 1.5 teaspoon of salt. Add your white wine after tuna is done. Add your parsley and tomato (with sauce). Add your dash of sugar if you desire it. Turn heat down to medium and continue to stir and allow time for flavors to blend. Toss in chopped olives and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Mix well. Simmer if your noodles are not ready yet.

Serve hot noodles in bowls covered with the tuna and tomato sauce mixture and sprinkled with extra fresh Parmesan cheese. Goes great with a salad.

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