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Spaghetti with Tuna Fish

I don’t know about you, but if you’re trying to avoid contracting the dreaded Coronavirus, you’re taking far fewer jaunts to the supermarket these days.  I’m trying to stretch out my trips to every ten days or more, (and I enter the store donned in a mask and gloves) and that’s mostly to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m sure that even before this health scare, I had enough provisions in my pantry to keep us fed for a couple of weeks — dry beans, pastas, canned tomatoes, rice, canned sardines, tuna and even some canned artichokes are all staples I normally have on hand. I decided to put some of the tuna and pasta to work and make a meatless meal on a Lenten Friday. It’s a recipe that I learned from my Abruzzese mother-in-law decades ago but I hadn’t made in ages. Now seemed just the right time to dust it off, with a few additions of my own. It comes together in the amount of time it takes to boil the pasta, so it’s a great time saver and kids generally love it too. I added scallions and capers to mine, which my mother-in-law never did, but they amp up the flavor quite a bit. You could even add some anchovy if you like, as I saw in a recent New York Times recipe. The recipe is very adaptive to what you have on hand, so don’t make a special trip to the store for anything. If you haven’t got scallions, use minced onion or shallot, or leave them out altogether. I also used a fair amount of parsley and chives that seem to have sprung up overnight in my deck planter. Feel free to substitute and improvise with other herbs if you don’t have those handy. Even dried herbs will work in a pinch.

Mix all the ingredients together while the pasta is boiling, then add the cooked pasta to the pan just before it reaches the al dente stage, along with some pasta water. Stir everything together for another minute or two, adding more water if necessary, to finish the cooking to the al dente stage.

Sprinkle with more fresh herbs just before serving and dig in. Stay healthy readers. And wear a mask if you must go out in public.

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Spaghetti with Tuna
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 6 small scallions (or three large ones)
  • 1 5 oz. can tuna fish, drained
  • two tablespoons capers
  • ¾ cup pasta water, more or less
  • freshly minced chives and parsley
  • a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
  • ½ pound spaghetti or linguini
Instructions
  1. Place the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and scallions.
  2. Meanwhile, start cooking the pasta.
  3. Sauté until soft, then add the tuna, breaking it up with a fork.
  4. Add the capers, red pepper flakes, half the herbs and about ¼ cup of the pasta water.
  5. Finish cooking the pasta until almost al dente and add the drained pasta nto the pan with the tuna.
  6. It's fine if a little water comes with the pasta since you'll want to add more water anyway.
  7. Add some of the pasta water and swish the pasta thoroughly through the sauce, adding more water if necessary to finish cooking the pasta.
  8. Add the other half of the herbs and serve immediately.
 

 

Frittatine

These appetizers get the award for cuteness. And they taste great too. It’s a simple frittata made with spaghetti and cooked in a mini-muffin tin, then topped with a little pesto and tomato sauce. A friend named Diana found these on the blog “Foodalogue” and offered them at a recent reception. They were gone quicker than you can say “frittatine,” a word that means more than one small frittata.
Italian lesson of the day: frittata-singular; frittate-plural. Tiny frittata-frittatina; plural frittatina-frittatine.
Frittatine (From Foodalogue)

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled bacon
1/2 cup peas
1 1/2 lbs. mozzarella shredded
8 eggs beaten
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, shredded
salt and pepper
1 lb. thin spaghetti
sauce for topping
Directions:
1. Saute garlic, bacon and peas. Reserve to side.

2. Crack spaghetti in thirds, boil to al dente and drain.

3. Mix beaten eggs with cheeses, s+p, and fold in garlic/bacon/pea mixture.

4. Add drained spaghetti and mix.

5. Fill greased mini muffin tins.

6. Bake in 350 oven for about 10 minutes7. Cool.  Top with marinara and pesto sauce

Notes:

When you add the pasta to the egg mix, the cheeses will melt.  It will be easier to fill and mold them into the muffin cups if you allow the cheese to cool off a little and get tacky.

You can make these in advance and either refrigerate or freeze them in a baggie.
Bring to room temperature and then reheat in oven before saucing. (I reheated in a microwave for about 10 seconds and it held its shape perfectly.)
It’s a good buffet item because they can be served at room temperature.
If you use a larger muffin mold, it makes a lovely first dish or lunch with a salad.

 

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Forget truffles. Forget fois gras. Forget filet mignon.
This is my husband’s favorite dish hands-down.
When we were first married (back in the mesozoic era) I could never get it right.
Keep in mind I had a mother-in-law from Central Italy and a mother from Northern Italy. The standards were high.
Both of them made spaghetti and meatballs regularly, and both versions were delicious, and very different from each other. Of course they didn’t use recipes. So I kept trying year after year to duplicate either sauce but it always lacked that little something that they couldn’t quite explain.

“It lacks ‘character,’ ” my husband would tell me time after time.

It took me years to develop that character, but there have been no complaints for a couple of decades now.

My sauce is neither like my mother’s (who used sausage and meatballs) nor my mother-in-law’s (who used braciole and meatballs) but a hybrid that has a “character” of its own.
I always use sausage and meatballs, and add some spareribs too if I’m going to serve it over polenta.
Once in a blue moon I make braciole. I always add hot pepper flakes as my mother-in-law did, but my husband always adds more directly over the pasta. His tolerance for heat is greater than mine.

Oh, and we never called it sauce when we were growing up. It was always “gravy” to us — or the Italian word, “ragu”.

There are plenty of times when I make a light, quick-cooking spaghetti sauce. This is not one of those recipes. This is a rich sauce that needs several hours of slow cooking to develop its flavors. I make it in a huge batch as you’ll see from the list of ingredients and freeze it for later meals. When friends or relatives come by for visits, there’s almost always some I can easily defrost for what has now become my fallback meal. You can adapt it for smaller portions, but be careful not to cut the seasonings too much or your sauce might not have “character” either.

Spaghetti Sauce

2 1/2 – 3 pounds Italian sausage (hot or sweet)
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion
8 – 10 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 large can of tomato sauce (6 pounds, 9 oz.)
1 large can of San Marzano tomatoes (6 pounds, 10 oz.)
(I like a chunkier sauce, so I break up the tomatoes only slightly either by hand or using a food processor)
1 cup dry red wine
1 small can tomato paste
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 T. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper
1 1/2 cups red wine

about 3 dozen meatballs
about 3 pounds pork spare ribs (or beef)

Place the sausage in a pot and cook over medium flame until nearly entirely cooked, and most of the fat has been rendered. Remove the sausages from the pot and set aside.
Drain all the fat from the pot and discard. Add the olive oil to the pot. Finely mince the onion and garlic in a food processor and saute in the olive oil. Do the same with the carrot and celery. Cook the vegetables until softened.
Add the remaining ingredients and put the sausage back into the pot with the sauce. Add the meatballs and spare ribs, if desired.

If using spareribs, cook them before adding to the sauce. If they are long, chop them in half with a cleaver. Place them in a covered saucepan over low to medium heat. You don’t need to add any oil to the pot. Let them cook for an hour and much of the fat will be released. Drain the fat and discard. Add the cooked ribs to the tomato sauce. Cook everything together for at least three to four hours on a low flame, stirring periodically.

Meatballs

I used to deep-fry these until several years ago, when I started broiling them to eliminate a lot of the fat. Nobody ever notices any difference and it’s a lot healthier.

2 1-2 – 3 pounds of ground meat (I use a mixture of pork, veal and beef)
about 1/3 of a large loaf of sturdy white Italian bread, preferably a day old
about 1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper

Trim the crusts off the bread. Dry the bread in the oven and use to make bread crumbs for another recipe.
Tear the bread into chunks and place into a bowl with the milk. Let the bread soak for at least 15 minutes or until it has absorbed the milk and softened. Squeeze as much milk as possible from the bread and discard the milk (or give to the cat). Squish the bread pieces with your fingers into a bowl with the ground meats until there are no big lumps. Add the remaining ingredients and blend well with your hands. Shape into round balls. Place on a baking sheet or broiling pan and broil or bake at high heat (450 – 500), watching carefully so they don’t burn. When they have a nice brown crust, turn them over and brown on the other side. Drain off the grease and add the meatballs to the sauce.