Dinner in 15 minutes

August 12, 2016

Linguine with tuna, capers and Kalamata olives.

Linguine with tuna, capers and Kalamata olives.

You’ve had it happen to you. It’s coming on dinnertime, nothing is thawed, no convenience foods, and  you just don’t freakin’ want to stop and pick up burgers or fried chicken AGAIN.

But if your pantry is like mine, two things you doggoned near always have is canned tuna and pasta. And with those, you have the makings of a meal.

Spaghetti alla tonno” calls, specifically, for oil-packed tuna. I am here to tell you you can make it with the Chicken of the Sea’s generic packed-in-water stuff. It would probably be better with tuna packed in olive oil, but you wouldn’t be nearly as likely to have it in your pantry. Sam’s, on the other hand, sells those 10-packs of the six-ounce cans of CotS, and I buy ’em religiously.

All else that’s required is some olive oil, a lemon, and some capers. Now, I will grant you capers may not be on your pantry staples list, but they ought to be; they add a great punch to all sorts of dishes. (Albeit they make Child A gag, something we discovered tonight. Kid has some odd taste buds.)

So here’s your timeline.

  • 6 p.m. — get out your Dutch oven, fill it half full of water, add a couple tablespoons kosher salt, and put it on the stove on high, or close thereto.
  • 6:03 — Open a can of tuna and drain it. Dump it in a bowl, and add the zest and juice of a big lemon (or, if you’re me and don’t have a fresh lemon, add about two or three tablespoons of lemon juice from the bottle) and a quarter-cup of olive oil. The recipe calls for a “good, fruity” olive oil; I had a bottle of manzanilla I bought at the olive oil store, and that served marvelously. Add a clove of garlic (finely minced, or in my case, two or three confit cloves, mashed against the side of the bowl) and a couple of tablespoons of capers. You may choose to mince your capers as well; I just kind of mashed mine up.
  • 6:06 — Water boils. Throw in pasta of choice. I used linguine, because it was the first one that came to my hand. Put bowl with tuna and oil and such in a strainer basket (IN the bowl!), and suspend over the boiling pasta to warm it gently.
  • 6:08 — pour a glass of wine and sip for a moment or two or three. Then get out your block of parmagiano and grate 1/3 cup or so. If you’re of a notion, dice up half a dozen small Kalamata olives.
  • 6:15 — dip a cup or so of pasta water out of the pot and set aside. Dump the pasta in a colander, and as soon as it drains, dump it back in the pot. Add the tuna and olive oil mixture; toss. If needed, add a little pasta water. Top with olives, grated parm, and serve.

Boom. 15 minutes. And that’s assuming you’re using a pasta that takes nine minutes to cook.

Redneck engineering; quick, easy way to warm your sauce.

Redneck engineering; quick, easy way to warm your sauce.

This is really, really good stuff. I thought it was going to be too oily, and truthfully, if you’re making pasta for just two people, you can cut back on the oil a tad. I didn’t use any pasta water; I can see it might be better to use less oil and add a little water. And the Italians would probably excommunicate you for eating cheese with fish, but, hey, it sounded like the right thing to do at the time, and I thought it added to the taste. And to me, the capers and the olives each added a separate tang of sourness/piquancy to the dish.

I’ll make it again. Perhaps not when Child A is eating. Thought I could leave the capers out of hers, as I did the olives, given she doesn’t like Kalamata olives, either. (As I said; kid has weird tastes.)

Of course, if all else fails, you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em can always fall back on the old standby tuna-and-warm-pasta salad, with mayo and sweet pickle relish. All that does is add egg yolks to the mix (in the mayo), and replace the capers with sweet pickle relish.

And Child A loves it.



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