Though canned tuna might have a bad rap in the U.S., generally sequestered for a life of mayonnaise and white bread (my personal go-to in college to save money), in Italy and much of the Mediterranean they pack the stuff in olive oil and give it a little more respect. These days, it's easier to find imported high-quality olive-oil packed tuna, and even some domestic brands are following suit by packing in olive oil. Often, I think it's worth the extra cost.
I pulled this recipe for pasta and tuna sauce from an issue of Saveur that had an article featuring home-preserved foods. Though it called for home-jarred tuna fillets, I had perfectly good success with store-bought. This is a done-before-the-water-boils sort of pasta, which are my favorite: a little bit of red pepper flakes and garlic begin the dish with a nutty spiciness, then the tuna is flaked into the skillet and just warmed through. The recipe also calls for slightly undercooking the pasta, then adding it to the skillet with a splash of pasta water, so that the final cooking stage creates a clinging, starchy sauce.
- 12 ounces good-quality dried spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red chile flakes
- 3 6-ounce cans olive oil–packed tuna (undrained)
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Kosher salt
Bring a large pot of salty water to boil. Cook the spaghetti unti just before al dente, reserving a mug full of pasta water.
Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the garlic and chili flakes. Cook until the garlic softens and just begins to brown, 2-3 minutes. Add the tuna and break up into small chunks until heated through.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet and increase the heat to high. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and stir vigorously with tongs until the sauce thickens and clings to the pasta. Toss in the parsley, season to taste with salt, and divide into bowls or plates. Drizzle with more oil if desired, and serve.