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Sometimes I realize the fridge is empty but the store is so far away….those are the times I look to the pantry to figure out what I can piece together. I usually have a can of Italian tuna, which is a great way to get some protein into what would normally just be starch-based. Add some Sicilian staples like pine nuts and currants along with some onion and garlic from fridge scraps, and a meal takes shape. This off-the-cuff meal ended up being a favorite for the week!

Sicilian Pantry Pasta

1/2 box linguine or other long pasta

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 onion, chopped

2 anchovies

1/4 cup currants soaked in a couple tablespoons of sherry or wine

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino

1 can Italian tuna, drained

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon parsley, chopped

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water a minute short of package instructions.

Meanwhile,  saute the onion, red pepper flakes, and anchovies in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, until the onion softens. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the tuna, pine nuts, and currants. Add the pasta and a little of the pasta cooking water.

In another pan, toast the breadcrumbs in a tablespoon of olive oil until they start to turn a little brown. Add most of the grated cheese and toss to combine. Pour the toasted breadcrumbs over the pasta and combine. Serve immediately with the rest of the grated cheese and parsley sprinkled on top. Optional, drizzle a little extra olive oil over the top to finish it.

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I always thought I didn’t like tuna noodle casserole until college. We had a wonderful southern cook for a few weeks who introduced me to this delicious variation on mac and cheese. I like to think the tuna gives it more nutritional value, but this dish is not about being healthy. I go to this when I’m in need of some cheesy comfort food, like I was this week. The creamy, cheesy sauce along with the flavorful mushrooms and crunchy crust on top make this one of my favorites. There’s truly nothing better.

I like to use Italian tuna in olive oil– it’s generally about twice as expensive as the American kind, but it’s so much more tasty. And the texture is more like actual fish. Try it if you haven’t, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

1/2 box small pasta such as egg noodles, mini ziti, mini shells, etc

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

1/4 cup Marsala wine or white wine

1 jar or can tuna in oil with oil drained out

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

1 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

1 cup cheddar, grated

1 cup parmesan, grated

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

truffle butter (optional)

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to box instructions but stop about 5 minutes early and drain.

Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil until they have softened. Add the rosemary and toss through. Add the wine and continue to cook for 2 minutes.

Combine the flour and butter in a separate pan and cook until the paste starts to brown. Add the milk and whisk so that there are no lumps. Add the chicken stock and whisk again. Add the mushroom mixture, the tuna, nutmeg, and about 3/4 of the cheeses. Reserve the rest of the cheese and combine with the breadcrumbs in another bowl.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir through. Pour into a baking dish and top with the breadcrumbs mixture. If you have some truffle butter, you can dot the top with little bits of it. You may want to reserve it and add before serving as well. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until it starts to get bubbly and browned on top.

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These were so good, that they might be the favorite meatballs around the apartment. In the New Year, we’re trying to be a little more healthy, and so….no red meat for a while…or at least as long as we can hold out. The cinnamon gives them a little unusual flavor that’s hard to place but so wonderful in the marinara sauce. I used some homemade sauce that I had leftover in the fridge, but you could use your favorite bottled sauce if you don’t have any.

Tuna Meatballs

1 can Italian tuna in olive oil, oil drained out

1/4 cup dried currants

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 egg

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon orange juice

Marinara sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Roll into meatballs and add to hot pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. They are very delicate, so don’t turn them more than necessary. Once they are browned on all sides, add marinara sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes.

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