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~ Simple Pasta "al Tonno e Pomodoro" "a la Nicoise" (Pasta "w/Tuna & Tomatoes" "French Riviera-Style")~

IMG_6479After the Thanksgiving "mashed potatoes and gravy" holiday, and, before the Chrismas "cookies and candy" holiday, I just want to cook a couple of lighter and brighter, feel-good meals.  If I lived in a warmer climate, this would include include fresh garden vegetables and grilled chicken or fish.  Here in Central PA, it is 26 degrees today, and, there is a coating of snow on the ground. That's ok by me.  I'm going to step into my pantry and when I emerge, I'm going to have the ingredients in-hand to cook one of my cold-weather-cozy, lighter and brighter favorite meals!

When classic Italian cuisine...

IMG_6426"Al tonno e pomodoro" is the Italian phrase meaning "tuna with tomatoes", and it refers to a warm pasta dish (usually spaghetti or penne), tossed with a cooked tomato sauce to which canned tuna (packed in oil) has been added. The tuna can be the high-end kind that comes perfectly-packed in a pretty glass jar, or, budget-friendly, canned, "sorry Charlie", StarKist, but it must be packed in oil!

Meets classic French cuisine... 

6a0120a8551282970b016765cbba72970b-320wi"A la Nicoise" (nee-swahz) is the French phrase meaning "as prepared in Nice", typifying the food found in and around the French Riviera city of Nice.  Be it hot or cold seasonal cuisine, their bold cooking style is identified by a few integral, extremely healthy, ingredients which include:  tomatoes, garlic, olives and olive oil.  Anchovies and/or tuna are common additions. These components are used in various forms:  fresh for salads, or cooked, for sauces, etc.

It's Amore...

I love "al tonno e pomodoro" and I love foods prepared "a la Nicoise", so, it didn't take me long to figure out a way to combine the two to create one light, bright, bold-flavored dish.  "Light", you ask?  While many classic Italian and French recipes are known for their rich, decadent, calorie-packed portions, because all of the ingredients in my recipe are really quite good for you, this is a dish you can eat and fall in love with... without the guilt (well, maybe just a little guilt)!
















6a0120a8551282970b0168eacefd93970c-120wi2  35-ounce cans imported, whole, peeled tomatoes, undrained, chopped into bite-sized pieces (Note:  The brand of tomatoes I purchase is just lovely.  They are packed in a thick tomato puree.  If your canned tomatoes are watery, drain them prior to chopping them.)

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

1 1/2  ounces minced garlic cloves

8  ounces stemmed, cleaned and chopped white mushroom caps

2  cups pitted and coarsely chopped Nicoise olives (Note:  in the event you don't have these on hand, canned and well-drained black olives may be substituted.  It's a bit of a compromise, but the end result will still be delicious.)

1/2  cup dry red wine

2  tablespoons olive oil

2  ounces butter (1/2 stick)

1  teaspoon herbes de Provence (a French spice blend, see Cook's Note below)

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

12  ounces "canned" tuna, packed in oil, well-drained, and broken into bite-sized pieces

6a0120a8551282970b015432779207970c-320wi1  pound spaghetti or penne pasta

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, for boiling the pasta

4  ounces butter (1 stick), cut into pieces, at room temperature, for tossing the pasta

1/2  cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for topping pasta 

6a0120a8551282970b0168eacf186c970c-320wi~ Step 1.  Place the tomatoes in a large mixing bowl.  The easiest way to "chop" whole tomatoes into bite-sized pieces is to squish them with your hands.  Tip:  If you keep them underneath the liquid as you squish, the juices won't squirt all over your kitchen!

~ Step 2.  Prep the onion, garlic, optional mushrooms and olives as directed.  Separately, set each aside.

6a0120a8551282970b016765ce4177970b-320wi~ Step 3.  In a 12" skillet, melt the butter into the olive oil over low heat.  Add the onion, garlic and optional mushrooms.  Add the herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and optional red pepper flakes. Adjust heat to saute, until the vegetables are tender and the mushrooms have lost their moisture, about 8-10 minutes.


~ Step 4.  Add the olives and wine and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

6a0120a8551282970b016765d692f3970b-120wi~ Step 5. Add and stir in the tomatoes. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 30 minutes.

~ Step 6.  Cover and remove from heat.  Do not add tuna at this time.

6a0120a8551282970b01538ea3e9e6970b-320wi~ Step 7.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling bowl.  Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.  

Gradually add the pasta to the water, in order to keep the water boiling and the pasta separated.  

Adjust the heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook until pasta is al dente, 8-12 minutes, depending upon the type of pasta you are cooking.

6a0120a8551282970b01538ea4296a970b-320wi~ Step 8.  Drain the pasta into a large colander and immediately return it to the still warm stockpot, and, place the stockpot back on the still warm stovetop.

Add the butter.  Using two forks or two spoons toss, as you would a salad, until the butter is completely melted and the pasta is evenly coated.  Cover pot and allow to rest on stovetop, 1-2 minutes, to allow the pasta to aborb all of the butter.

IMG_6457~ Step 9.  Add 3 1/2-4 cups of sauce to the cooked pasta.  Using two forks or two spoons toss as you would a salad, until the pasta is evenly coated in the sauce.

~ Step 10.  Add the tuna and gently toss, until it is incorporated throughout, being careful not to break up any chunks.  Portion into 4-6 warmed pasta bowls and top each with a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese: 

IMG_6460 IMG_6440Simple Pasta "al Tonno e Pomodoro" "a la Nicoise" (Pasta "w/Tuna & Tomatoes" "French Riviera-Style:  Recipe yields 3 quarts of sauce (enough for 3 meals), or, 1-quart of sauce for each 1-pound of pasta cooked (which serves 4).  This sauce freezes great, but, do not add the 12-ounces of tuna to any one of them until it is thawed and reheated. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; mesh strainer (optional); 12" skillet; 8-quart stockpot; colander; microplane grater

PICT2777Cook's Note:  Herbes de Provence is a mixture of dried herbs typical of the regions around Provence, France.  The classic mixture contains basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, savory, thyme and sometimes lavender flowers.  It is usually used to flavor fish, meat and vegetable stews, meaning:  it is added before or during the cooking process, or, mixed with cooking oil prior to cooking in order to infuse the herbal flavors into the food (never after the cooking is complete).

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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Have fun Marilyn! You're going to love that new machine!!!

Mel, my Atlas Pasta machine arrived today - yeah! Only you would understand my excitement. I will get my new toy cranking this weekend and make your delicious looking pasta dish. You kept your promise! Hugs, Marilyn

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