Italian Tuna Pasta Recipe
Last night I needed to come up with a quick meal for the family. My oldest daughter had a tennis clinic so we started a little late. We talked about going out for dinner but both girls said they had too much homework and wanted to stay in and order takeout sushi. These girls will find any excuse to order sushi but I said no to that so now what do I prepare?
I love to keep our pantry filled with interesting food items for occasions just like this when I want to put together a quick meal but still want it to be a little different and taste great. I call these meals “quick & easy” and on the newly designed site, I’ll have a category for these recipes. I’ve been stocking up my pantry with some very cool items I’ve found on Amazon and because we are signed up as a “Prime” members, we get free 2-day shipping on all items fulfilled by Amazon.
Several of the items for this meal were ordered online from Amazon and stock my pantry. Yes, you typically have to order by the case, but often a case is just 6 items. And if you are ordering items with long shelf lives or that you use a lot, it really doesn’t matter. It’s sort of like shopping at Costco but online.
4/28/12 Added – My friend Chef Ricco DeLuca suggested adding some fresh cracked pepper, fresh Italian parsley and a sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil so I am adding these ingredients to this recipe. Ricco is one of the best cooks I know so if he says this recipe will be better with these ingredients, I trust it will.
I already ordered a bunch of new and interesting pastas like the strozzapreti pasta that I wanted to try out but now that I’m experimenting with a gluten free diet for a while, I decided to prepare two different pastas, one for my wife and kids and one for me. The girls have already told me they have no problem with the rice flour pasta but they were excited to try the interesting looking strozzapreti.
Strozzapreti translated is “priest choker” in Italian. Not sure how it received its unfortunate name but according to Wikipedia there are a few legends that may explain its history. One is that “gluttonous priests were so enthralled by the savory pasta that they ate too quickly and choked themselves, sometimes to death.”
There’s another legend mentioned that goes, “wives would customarily make the pasta for churchmen as partial payment for land rents in Romagna, and their husbands would be angered enough by the venal priests eating their wives’ food to wish the priests would choke as they stuffed their mouth with it.”
Neither sound that appetizing but I can assure you my girls enjoyed the pasta, went back for seconds, and didn’t choke on it.
The pasta is made from strips of pasta dough that are twisted by hand (I’m sure commercial pasta manufacturers have machines that do this), cut into 10 cm lengths, and are not uniform in size or shape. Find it at Amazon at strozzapreti pasta.
Italian Jarred Tuna
For a dish like this, you want to try and find imported Italian tuna. There is simply no comparison to the everyday canned tuna we buy for making tuna fish sandwiches. Yes, it is more expensive than most tuna but the meat comes from the finest cuts of yellowfin tuna and with a $7.00 jar you can feed a family of four with leftovers for school lunches the next day.
I purchased the Tonnino Tuna Ventresca in Olive Oil at Amazon. According to Tonnino’s, this is their “créme de la créme of their product line. Imagine an extremely smooth, soft strip of tuna hand filleted from a small section of its underbelly and hand packed in its natural form.”
It is really that good!
So we have pasta, tuna and now for some artichoke hearts. When I first had this dish while in Rome on my honeymoon at a friend’s home, the artichokes hearts were fresh and amazing. Since this is a pantry pasta dish, I pulled out giant jar of artichoke hearts packed in water that I think I purchased at Costco. I usually have some smaller cans of artichoke hearts in the pantry but we must have run out, You can also buy a case of these at Amazon at a really good price. Check out these artichoke hearts.
I suggest you don’t buy the marinated hearts because in my opinion the marinade doesn’t taste that good and you cannot get the flavor off the artichokes no matter how many times you rinse them off. Stick with the ones packed in water or brine and then add the flavors you want and by all means if you have the time, use fresh artichokes.
Yes, you can purchase pitted Kalamata Olives at Amazon. I did once and they were terrific but it was a 5-pound bag of them. That’s a lot of olives! You can purchase them in small sizes but olives are easy to find these days in most supermarkets and they’re a great item to have in your refrigerator at all times for all sorts of recipes and salads.
Sometimes called Pignoli nuts, these babies are getting expensive but they are so good when toasted and added to a dish like this. My wife suggested we add them to this pasta recipe and it was a great idea. Pine nuts are the seeds that are found in the pine cones of certain species of pine trees. It’s a lot of work to gather and process pine nuts and maybe that’s why they are getting so expensive. I purchase mine at Costco but I did check and you can purchase them on Amazon and have them shipped to you. Check out Amazon pine nuts.
That’s it. Besides some hot peppercorn flakes to give it another layer of flavor, we are ready to go. Normally I would add the peppercorn flakes to the sauce but then my kids wouldn’t eat it so I leave them out for whoever wants to add them to their dish to give it some fire.
Cheese or No Cheese
I posted a similar recipe to this back in 2007 that suggested finishing with grated Parmesan cheese as optional. Since then, I have learned from my good friend Chef Ricco DeLuca that combining cheese with fish sauces is not a good idea and he went on to say “his father would roll over in his grave if he ever combined the two.”
I don’t want any mass grave rolling so this time I’m going to say – No optional cheese.
Wheat Flour Strozzapreti Pasta and/or Gluten Free Penne Pasta with Tuna, Artichoke Hearts & Kalama Olives
It is a good idea to keep a well-stocked pantry so on nights you don’t know what to cook, you can come up with something special and just as important and easy!
Strozzapreti Pasta with Imported Italian Tuna Recipe
- 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
- 1 pound of strozzapreti or penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 12 pitted kalamata olives roughly chopped
- 1 can about 6 artichoke hearts packed in water but rinsed, drained and quartered
- 1 6.7 oz. jar of imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black peppercorns
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil to drizzle on top
- Hot peppercorns flakes - to taste optional if you have kids
- Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to boil. While it's coming to a boil, prep all your ingredients. Once the water comes to a boil, add your pasta and start making the tuna sauce.
- I'm not sure if there is a particular order I should be following but I heated up a saucepan, added the olive oil and then started with the chopped olives. Let them cook for two or three minutes then add the artichoke hearts. The hearts will break up some while you heat them up especially if you are stirring often but this is fine.
- Add the jar of tuna WITH the olive oil it was packed in. Stir to combine ingredients and to break up the tuna chunks. Cook until all the ingredients are heated through.
- When the pasta is done (be sure to read my post on How to Cook Pasta), drain and reserve. I do not suggest you combine the sauce and the pasta but rather plate individually by spooning some pasta into each plate and then topping with sauce. Depending on how much tuna sauce you like, a pound of pasta may be too much or it may be just right. Besides one kid may like Kalamata olives and another might not.
- Sprinkle some toasted pine nuts, parsley, cracked peppercorns and olive oil on top and serve with the hot pepper flakes on the side so everyone can add to taste.
- This is a quick & easy recipe that you can alter to your own likes and with what you have in your own pantry. It's a great example of a basic dish that can be modified in any number of ways. Go make it your own.