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Tuna Pasta


Bob's Tuna Pasta Recipe

O (FOR)TUNA! Okay, I felt your collective and tuneful groan, but I couldn’t resist. The tuna pasta recipe I’m sharing today was adapted from one of my very first cookbooks Alfredo Viazzi’s Italian Cooking, in which he calls this dish “Rigatoni alla Viareggina,” in homage to the Tuscan coastal town of Viareggio where he first sampled it. The key ingredient is canned tuna packed in olive oil. I use the Genova Yellowfin tuna brand, which you can find in most supermarkets next to Chicken of the Sea. (Don't you love that name?)

Rigatoni (known in my old neighborhood as "sewer pipes") are short stubby tubes that get their name from rigato, which means lined or with ridges. The tomato sauce clings to the ridges and the tuna finds its way into the tubes. Mezzi rigatoni and penne rigate pastas also work. If you like tuna, you’ll love this recipe.


3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp garlic, chopped
5 anchovy filets, packed in olive oil, chopped (As I advised in a previous recipe, if you are averse to anchovies, use them anyway. They add depth of flavor and you won't notice them.)
oregano, generous pinch
thyme, generous pinch
4-5 basil leaves, fresh, or 1 tsp dried
1 T Italian parsley, chopped
black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
3 cans of Genova Yellowfin tuna, in olive oil, not drained
1 35-oz can of Italian peeled tomatoes (preferably with the D.O.P. designation on the label. LaValle is a good brand.)
1 lb. rigatoni, imported (I use the DeCecco brand.)
1 T butter
Parmesan, imported, freshly grated, for the table

Place a large pot of water on the stove to heat. Put the oil and garlic into a sauce pan over low heat. When it begins to sizzle, add the anchovies and stir and mash them until they form a paste. Add the oregano, thyme, basil, parsley and pepper. Then add the tuna and its olive oil. If this seems like too much oil, you can skim it off at the end. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the pan. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, over medium heat. Set aside.

When the water boils add a tablespoon of salt, return it to a boil and then add the rigatoni. Stir the pasta early on and frequently to keep it from sticking to the pan or to each other. When the pasta is nearly done (“done” means al dente or firm to the bite) melt the butter in a skillet large enough to accommodate the pasta. Drain the pasta, add it to the skillet and stir to coat it with the butter. Add the remaining sauce and mix thoroughly. Serve with the cheese. (Yes, someone had deemed that we can now put cheese on a fish-based pasta dish.)

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