pasta with tuna capers and tomato

The beauty of having a well-stocked pantry is being able to change things up at the last minute if necessary and still get something good on the table. Our original plan, since Mike and I both had Monday off from work and could spend a bit more time cooking, was to do a series of New Orleans inspired dishes and nosh all day long. After running around in the cold all morning, then coming home and making three and a half quarts of homemade chicken stock, I was tired and achy, and the last thing I wanted to do was prepare an involved meal. We scrapped our original plan and decided to go simple.

One of our favorite pantry staple meals is a pasta dish inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’ Fusilli with Tuna and Tomato Sauce. Her recipe provides a good jumping off point, but I like to add a little more kick to it with chile flakes and extra capers.

pantry staples

I got a big pot of water boiling for the pasta, and then got to work on the sauce. I didn’t have any of my basic tomato sauce on hand, so I had to build a quick version first. I sauteed a chopped shallot in some olive oil, then added half a can of whole peeled San Marzanos with their juice and crushed them with a potato masher. I added a splash of white wine, some dried marjoram and chile flakes, and seasoned the sauce with kosher salt.

We always have jars of oil-packed Italian tuna on hand, so I pulled the meat from one jar (leaving behind the oil) and added it to the sauce, breaking it up a bit with a fork. I added about 1/4 cup of nonpareil capers and a generous grating of lemon zest, and let it simmer away while my cavatappi cooked (I used half a box). When the pasta was just short of al dente, I added a small ladleful of the pasta water to the sauce, then added the pasta right into the sauce and tossed it through. Once the pasta had finished cooking in the sauce, I spooned it into serving bowls and finished it with some fresh flat-leaf parsley and more lemon zest.

This dish has such a wonderful combination of flavors, and you just can’t beat a recipe that you can put together from things you’ve always got on hand, in just about half an hour.

Wine Note: We drank Borgo Nuovo Nero d’Avola, which went really nicely with the meaty tuna, spicy chiles and hit of citrus in this dish.

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