Last night we enjoyed one of our favorite weeknight pasta dishes: Gemelli with Tuna and Cherry Tomatoes. The source, a seven-year old recipe from Rachael Ray. The counterpoint between the unctuous, savory tuna and the fresh, sweet cherry tomatoes makes for a wonderful sauce for the twisted-twin strands of pasta.
Over the years, I’ve modified the recipe to meet our own palates, boosting the savory side with some capers, adding a little heat with some crushed red-pepper flakes, and using a touch of vinegar to brighten the dish with some acidity. If you would like to view the original recipe, here’s a link: Rachael Ray’s Original.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
pinch of crushed red-pepper flakes
2 jars solid Italian tuna in olive oil (6 ounces each), drained
1/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 pint small cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons small capers packed in brined, rinsed and drained
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound gemelli pasta – short braids of pasta or other short-cut pastas, such as penne rigate, can be substituted, cooked to al dente in salted water
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped (about 3 handfuls)
20 leaves fresh basil leaves, shredded
Add olive oil and garlic to a large, deep skillet. Place over low heat and slowly poach the garlic to extract as much flavor as possible, about 5 to 6 minutes. Do not let the garlic to take on any color.
Raise the heat to medium and when garlic starts to sizzle, add tuna and mash into oil with the back of a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low and let the tuna sit in the oil for about 5 minute to infuse the fish flavor into the oil and to give the tuna time to break down. Add the wine to help break down the tuna so that it almost melts into the oil. If necessary, add a little of the pasta water.
When the tuna is like a thick pasty sauce, raise the flame a bit and add the quartered tomatoes, vinegar, and capers. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the tomatoes through until they start to break down, 3 to 4 minutes, then add hot, drained pasta that has been cooked to al dente.
Add the parsley to the tuna and pasta and toss to combine well and evenly coat pasta. Adjust seasonings. Top pasta with shredded basil and serve on heated plates.
Wine Pairing: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Frascati