Lately, life has been a whirlwind of travel, renovations and lists! It seems I have lists for everything – work, my blog, my Italy tours, things I want to cook, items to finish off the renovation, items to start the next phase of renovations. Those lists have kept my life in order during the frenzy of workmen coming and going as the new kitchen emerged. One of the lists (which I am have now thankfully eliminated) is the list of meals that I could make on a single induction burner or in the Instant Pot. Although I now have a tremendous fondness for induction burners, I am so thankful for the ability to cook multiple items at the same time or pop a roast chicken in the oven. Being back in the kitchen makes everything right in my world. (I promise to post before/after photos soon – waiting for a few more bits to get installed! )
Whether spending hours cooking or making a simple weeknight meal, the routine of the kitchen is my happy place. Cooking is what I crave when I need to soothe my soul or unwind. I never quite realized just how much that statement is true until I was without one for 6 months. I am enjoying finding the rhythm in my new kitchen but things are still too shiny and clean. So let’s mess this place up a bit, shall we??
With things being at such a frenetic pace during the week, I am constantly trying to think of easy but healthful meals that are quick to prepare. Pantry staples frequently take center stage when short on time. Oil-packed tuna is one of those staples. My mother was a big fan of oil-packed tuna. We ate it ….a lot!
When I first went off to college, I must admit that I turned up my nose at the oil-packed variety in order to feel like the other kids. I stocked my dorm room with the water packed variety like my dorm mates. That latest for about one semester – the stuff was practically tasteless. Visions of my mother’s pasta with tuna made me scurry home sooner than expected. Her pasta truly elevated that little can to pure heavenly deliciousness. I would grab a fork and head for the porch. Sitting with the entire bowl in my lap, I would eat to my heart’s content, soothing away any poor grades or recent breakups. She soon started sending cans of the oil-packed variety back to school with me. You can find that recipe here: In my Mother’s Footsteps: Pasta with Tuna and Tomatoes
Italians are one of the largest consumers of canned tuna in the world and for good reason. Italian oil-packed tuna (tonno) is a flavor packed treat that puts the water packed variety to shame. The tuna is typically precooked and allowed to marinate in good quality olive oil for a few months prior to being sent to the markets.
In Italy, you can find little glass jars of meaty oil-packed tuna gracing the supermarket shelves. Italians use oil-packed tuna in quick and versatile ways, whether stuffing little cherry tomatoes or mixing simply with cannellini beans and red onion. When surrounded in olive oil, this ordinary pantry staple is elevated to gourmet status. Here I have paired the tuna with another of my favorite veggies for pasta: roasted cauliflower.
The two flavors meld into a delicious sauce that coats each strand. I topped with toasted pine nuts and wonderfully crunchy breadcrumbs to add texture. Do not hesitate to switch out the pine nuts. Walnuts would go great in this dish. And make extra breadcrumbs as they make a wonderfully crunchy topping for many dishes, like roasted asparagus or a simple lemon pasta.
(A quick note on responsibly caught tuna: there are a few brands that you can easily find here in the US that are sustainably sourced. Genova’s oil-packed tuna is not only delicious but one such brand.)
So go grab that can of (oil-packed) tuna and turn it into something magical.
Ci vediamo presto! (See you soon!) Look forward to being back in my kitchen and making a mess together … un grande baci!
Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Tuna
An easy Italian recipe using a pantry staple – canned tuna!
- For the cauliflower:
- 1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
- About 2 tablespoons capers (more or less as desired)
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the pine nuts and breadcrumbs:
- About 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¾ cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the pasta:
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 red onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 2 (5 ounce) cans tuna, olive oil packed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Zest from ½ lemon
- Large handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil
Roast the cauliflower: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the cauliflower and capers with a few tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the cauliflower is tender and browned, about 20 – 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.
While the cauliflower is roasting, toast the pine nuts and breadcrumbs. Place the pine nuts in a dry small skillet and cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until golden. Remove from heat and place pine nuts in a small bowl for later use. In same skillet, heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. When hot, add in the breadcrumbs and sauté until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water and cook the pasta according to package directions, until al dente.
While waiting for the water to boil, make the pasta sauce: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the red onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and the garlic is fragrant. Add in the canned tuna and sauté for a few minutes. Stir in the roasted cauliflower mixture. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and add the pasta to the tuna cauliflower mixture. Stir in about ½ cup of the reserved pasta water and gently toss to combine. (If pasta is too dry, add in more of the reserved pasta water.)
Remove pan from heat. Grate over zest of ½ lemon. Add in the pine nuts. Toss to incorporate. Sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs and parsley. Drizzle with a finish of extra virgin olive oil and serve!