Tuna Penne Pasta

  • Time: 30 - 45 minutes
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: easy

‘Pasta is a beautiful thing, something I could eat everyday. And this tuna penne pasta is one of those humble dishes for a relaxing meal after work. With ingredients you probably have, or at least some, you can make a solo plate, or enough to feed a family of five! Or make it your own using other spare ingredients in the fridge. I know Leo would say, “don’t forget the bread and butter!”‘

Pete
'I tend to get home late from work and this little beauty is simple, warming and very quick to make.'

What you need

300g – 400g dried penne pasta

100g – 200g tinned tuna – preferably in oil

2 garlic cloves

1 medium onion

2 small courgettes or 1 large

1 tsp dried oregano

400g medium-sized fresh ripe tomatoes or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes or 250ml passata

250ml chicken stock or water

Salt and pepper

 

Optional ingredients

4 rashers of back bacon

150g raw jumbo prawns (or more to taste and appetite)

1 red chilli (more or less to taste) – de-seeded

1 large stick celery

50g capers in brine, rinsed and drained

5 fillets of tinned anchovy – or 1 tbs anchovy sauce

3 bay leaves

1 handful chopped fresh parsley

2 good sprigs of rosemary stripped of leaves and chopped finely

1 tbs sherry vinegar or red (or white) wine vinegar – or a good glug of white wine

1 tbs tomato puree

1 tsp sugar

 

Garnish

Black olives

Chopped fresh parsley



Dad's Recipe Tales

Can pasta be typecast?

Once I started putting penne into pasta bakes I didn’t stop. Penne always became associated with pasta bakes. But of course ‘penne arrabiata’ is a famous loose pasta dish. One online resource lists 17 favourite penne pasta dishes – 10 are not baked.

So if your penne is being typecast in a baking role – remember, it’s also very good served unbaked in a loose sauce – as in this tuna penne pasta dish.

Can tinned tuna and tomato ever be happy together?

This is a tricky one – it seems a counter-intuitive combo. The tomato is harsh on the delicate tuna yet the tuna’s fishiness is accentuated in the neutral tomato sauce. They seem to fight each other. The tomato sauce is screaming for meat and cheese while the tuna is crying out for a white sauce with white wine, celery, parsley and dill – or wants to be served cold with cucumber, olive oil, mayonnaise, eggs and chives… But think margarita pizza with tomato and anchovies, tinned mackerel in a tomato sauce, or roast cod with tomatoes. There are many precedents to prove that tuna and tomato can get on happily with each other…

So here is what has turned out to be a great pasta sauce. Serve (unbaked) with penne.

How Dad Cooked It

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients  – so long as you have some onion, tomato and a tin of tuna you can make a good sauce to go with the pasta. Adding any of the optional ingredients will build new layers of flavour – if you use these the result will be outstanding rather than just very good.

WDC style of tomato-based pasta sauces are thinner and less ‘tomatoey’ than many sauces one sees. Thick red gloopy tomato sauces are a hangover from tinned spaghetti, or spaghetti bolognese made with too many tins of tomatoes.

Tinned tuna will quickly break-up in the sauce. You can use this to your advantage so it is amalgamated into the sauce – or you can save some chunks for adding at the last minute. I do both.

Don’t be tempted to use the oil either in a tin of tuna or the tin of anchovies. Both are very fishy and will spoil the sauce.

Simple sauce recipe

  1. Cook the pasta. Follow the instructions and the packet. Before draining reserve some of the cooking water.
  2. Start a saute. Chop the garlic, and onion, and cook on medium heat in a large sauce pan for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato, liquid and herbs. Add the tinned tomatoes or passata or chop the fresh tomatoes in half and add to the pan. Add the stock or water and oregano, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove the tomato skins.
  4. Add the courgettes and parsley. Chop the courgettes into fairly small pieces and add to the pan. Add the parsley. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Finish the sauce. Add the tuna and simmer for a few more minutes. Add the drained pasta and toss – add cooking water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Method using all the preferred ingredients

  1. Cook the pasta. Follow the instructions and the packet. Before draining reserve some of the cooking water.
  2. Start a saute. Chop the bacon, garlic, onion, celery and chilli and cook on medium heat in a large sauce pan for 10 minutes. Add the anchovy fillets and stir until they break-up.
  3. Add the tomato, liquid and herbs. Add the fresh tomatoes sliced in half, the sherry vinegar, tomato puree, sugar, stock, bay leaves, rosemary and oregano, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove the tomato skins.
  4. Add the courgettes. Chop the courgettes into fairly small pieces and add to the pan. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Finish the sauce. Add the prawns and cook for 2 minutes, add the tuna and capers and simmer for a few more minutes. Add the drained pasta and toss – add cooking water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Season with black pepper (check for salt as the bacon, capers and anchovies are very salty).
  6. Serve. Garnish with black olives and parsley.

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