For a dish dangerously close to tuna casserole, this recipe came out pretty posh. Not that I have anything against tuna casserole—I remember it fondly from childhood—but it turns out the basic combination of canned tuna and noodles can be elevated without much effort, and a lot less time. The essential idea is to fight against the potential for blandness by bringing something exciting to the palate. In this case, spicy red pepper flakes, the sharpness of arugula, and a squeeze of lemon do the trick.
I've written about tuna with pasta before, with a somewhat similar recipe from Saveur magazine. This recipe uses the same technique of pasta water to achieve a creamy texture. But the addition of spicy arugula here, suggested by an old online article I found in the San Franscisco Chronicle, proved to be a development worth writing about. I took a cue from a number of comments on the last tuna pasta post to add a squeeze of lemon juice, a nice touch of brightness that tied the whole thing together.
- 1 pound dried spaghetti or linguine
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- Generous pinch hot red pepper flakes, to taste
- 2 6-oz cans good tuna in olive oil, drained
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 pound baby arugula
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
Bring a pot of salty water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve some cooking water before draining.
In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, a couple minutes, then add the tuna and shred into flakes. Add a splash of the pasta cooking water to create a sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and the lemon juice.
Add the cooked pasta along with the contents of the skillet back into the past pot. Toss well to combine. Add the arugula and continue tossing, allowing it to wilt, moistening with pasta water or olive oil as needed. Serve immediately.