Surprisingly Fabulous Tuna Pasta (and Hand Gestures You Shouldn’t Make in Italy)

Aug 27, 2010 by

I just have to come out and say it--this pasta may not look fabulous, and it may not sound fabulous, but it is surprisingly super duper fabulous...even though it's made with canned tuna. When Guido pulled out the canned tuna to try out this recipe one evening, I had my doubts. So did he, which is why when I came in to the kitchen to help cook, he jokingly referred to his dish as "la cena del cornuto."
La corna
In southern Italy one of the worst things you can call a man is a cornuto, and don't you dare think about making the sign of the horns (la corna) by extending your index and pinkie finger...unless you're looking for a fight. Calling a man a cornuto is the same as telling him he's a cuckhold--basically, that someone's been sleeping with his wife. Forget the F word; in southern Italy cornuto is the king of curses. When I asked Guido why he called the dish "la cena del cornuto," he joked that it's such a simple dinner (la cena) that even a cornuto--a man whose wife is too busy with her lover to cook for him--can make it. But by the time Guido had finished, not only was I so madly in love with him that I knew he'd never be a cornuto (I mean, come on--a man who cooks?), but it was so surprisingly good that I had to share. On a less fun note: This is not the best dish for the environment. Tuna is over fished and full of mercury these days. But if you do decide to splurge, make sure you use high-quality canned Albacore tuna. Finally, good olive oil and kalamata olives are necessary, and the pinch of peperoncino really makes it sing. Servings: 2 full plates Ingredients:
  • Spaghetti for two (for gluten-free folks, use rice pasta, not corn pasta, as it won't overshadow the sauce with its flavor)
  • One clove of garlic, cut in half.
  • One can of good-quality tuna stored in oil, drained
  • One roma tomato, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 to 8 Kalamata olives (not those nasty black canned ones you put on your fingers as a kid!) cut into large pieces, not chopped--see picture
  • G-Spot Ingredient: A pinch of peperoncino (red peppers)
Get your hot water boiling for the pasta. Before you add the pasta to the boiling water, add one to two tablespoons of salt to the water, closer to two for a large pot with lots of water. Heat your pan until warm, then add a tablespoon or so of olive oil, enough to cover about half the pan. Add the two halves of garlic to the oil and let simmer for one minute, then add the can of tuna and let cook for a couple minutes until thoroughly warm. Add the kalamata olives till warm, then add the tomato and a pinch of peperoncino till all the ingredients are slightly cooked. Finally, remove the garlic cloves, unless you're crazy for garlic like me. When the pasta is al dente, about two minutes before you'd normally pull it out, scoop out a small cup of pasta water, turn off the heat, and drain the pasta. Then, add the pasta to the tuna sauce, and cook until the pasta is ready, adding a splash of pasta water if needed to keep the pasta from sticking to the pan. Serve immediately. Final note: When I asked Guido if I should grate parmigiano to top it with, he visibily shuddered and said, "With fish? No Italian would ever serve parmigiano or any kind of cheese with fish." So if you want to follow the Italian tradition, keep the grater in the cupboard for this one.

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