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Monday, April 30, 2012

Pasta with Tuna, Garlic and Lemon

Some recipes are so simple, they almost seem to disappear right off the page. When I first came across this one, some two years ago, I wasn't impressed. Huh, I thought, pasta, canned tuna, garlic, a little lemon: sounds kind of nice, but what's so special about that? When I finally got around to trying it, though, I realized that—as is so often the case—freshness and care in choosing ingredients make all the difference. Using freshly-crushed garlic simmered in quality olive oil, fresh lemon and parsley, premium tuna, and finishing with fluffy Parmesan you grate yourself, this simple recipe really sings.

 Pasta with Tuna, Garlic and Lemon
This is my take on a recipe by Adam Reid,
which originally appeared in the
Boston Globe Magazine, September 26, 2010

1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
2 cans water-packed solid white tuna*, undrained
2 teaspoons zest and 1/4 cup juice from 1 or 2 lemons
salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
1 pound short and stubby or tubular pasta: shells are fun, but ziti or elbow macaroni also work fine
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil over high heat, add 1 Tablespoon salt and the pasta, and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large, skillet over low heat, heat 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic, and the red pepper flakes, stirring often, just until the garlic is soft and slightly fragrant, but not brown. Add tuna with its' liquid, using a spoon to break up large chunks, stir to mix, and cook until heated through and some of the liquid has cooked away. Stir in lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook about a minute more.
  3. Add pasta to the tuna mixture, toss and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add lemon juice, remaining oil, and black pepper to taste, and toss well. Add enough cooking water to distribute the sauce evenly. Stir in most of the parsley and toss to distribute. Taste and add more salt and black pepper if you like. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and Parmesan, and serve immediately.
Serves 4
You can reheat the leftovers, topped with grated cheese, in a casserole dish at 400° for 20 minutes or so.

*I used a premium albacore tuna, Wild Planet brand, which is relatively low in mercury, and has the added benefit of being "pole and troll" caught, and thus sustainable and dolphin-safe. Its delicious, fresh flavor made quite a difference to the dish, and I would definitely recommend it.

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  1. Sounds so appealing I can hardly believe it's ccanned tuna!

  2. I tried this today ! It works!
    My family like the pasta with tuna garlic and lemon so much! Thank you for making me look like a professional cooker. :)
    Hey, do you mind submitting your photos to to make others hungry?
    You know it’s fun to do that. LOL. Hey, probably they would do this recipe too. :)


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