Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Tuna Pasta

If memory serves me correctly, the first dinner party I ever attended as a bonafide grown up was one put on by my friends, Neil and Bruce.

Bruce was a big fan of baked dinners. I'd mentioned to him once that I loved a good baked dinner but hadn't really had one since I'd left home (I was nineteen at the time and had only left home that year so I wasn't THAT deprived!). Bruce decided he would put on a dinner, the feature being his very special roast lamb. It never ocurred to me that there'd be more than one course for the meal, so when I arrived to find the place settings decked out with cutlery for not one but THREE courses, I was absolutely delighted.

It was the late eighties and the whole low fat fashion hadn't totally taken over our dinner tables or tastebuds yet, so it was still open slather on cheese and cream. I asked Bruce what was for entree and he said pasta. No problem - that was something I could easily enjoy. But when Bruce presented the first course to us, I was overcome with the stink of cooked fish mixed up with cream and melted cheese - it was more like a tuna bake!

"What is this?" I asked Bruce, trying to be as polite as possible and not succeeding. Tuna fettucine, he declared. I was mortified. I had to apologise profusely - I was still in the throes of my anti-fish period, and there was absolutely no way I could attempt the congealed yellow mass on the plate without gagging and thereby irrevocably disgracing myself.

Neil was a Godsend - and a big eater. He snatched my plate out from under me and scraped the food onto his own, then consumed it all in record time. I was relieved not to have to eat the pasta, but I will never forget the wounded look on Bruce's face. Shame on me - I should have learned to love dairy coated fish before I left home!

250g spiral pasta
2 tbslp olive oil
180g canned tuna in springwater
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can tomatoes, crushed or pureed
8 fresh basil leaves
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
pinch dried chilli flakes
2 tblsp red wine - whatever you've got lying round (but not port!)
1 tblsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
Grated parmesan to garnish
Extra cracked pepper

1. Boil a saucepan of water, adding one tablespoon of the olive oil while the water is cold. Add pasta on the rolling boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until al dente (or just pick one pasta out and eat it to test!).

2. In a separate saucepan, lightly sautee the onions and garlic over a medium to hot heat, being careful not to burn either.

3. Add the tomato puree and stir with a slotted spoon. Then add the basil, parsley, chilli flakes, bay leaves, red wine and stir to combine. Allow a few minutes for the spices to infuse their flavour in the tomatoes then taste. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

4. Add tomato paste to sauce - this will thicken the sauce, helping it to coat the pasta.

5. Drain tuna and add to sauce. Stire until tuna is completely broken up and combined into the sauce. Taste again - add a little more salt and pepper if you wish. Remove from heat.

6. Pour the cooked pasta into a collander to drain. Do not rinse. Tip the pasta back into the saucepan then pour the tuna sauce over the top. Stir with a pasta claw to combine thoroughly. Serve immediately, garished with shaved parmesan and extra cracked black pepper. A nice crusty piece of Italian bread on the side would not go astray!

Note: this recipe should produce about four serves. They can be easily frozen and reheated later for a quick lunch or dinner.

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