Grilled Tuna


When it comes to pure flavor, I’d have to say that tuna, raw or cooked, is my favorite fish. As a true beef lover, I find tuna the perfect substitute when trying to eat healthy. Because I truly enjoy the flavor of this fish, I like to prepare it with a minimum of ingredients and cook it as simply as possible.

My go-to recipe for this “king of the sea” is “Basic Grilled Tuna” in Mark Bittman’s Fish: Fish: Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking.

The recipe calls for marinating a thick tuna steak (1.5 to 2 pounds) in a high-quality soy sauce and olive oil marinade for an hour or less and then grilling it on a hot grill or under a broiler, and basting occasionally with the marinade. After five minutes, the steak is turned and you start checking for doneness by cutting into the steak with a thin-bladed knife.

He warns that tuna should not be cooked to the well-done stage as it will continue to cook after its removed from the heat.

After the first turn

The first time I prepared this recipe, I overcooked my tuna. Now I turn my fish after about 3 minutes on a hot grill pan and then cook it for about 2 minutes on the other side. Rather than using a knife, I keep my eye on the sides of the steak and remove them before the rare middle is cooked. You can see the band of “rare” tuna in the photo above.

Although Bittman provides a recipe for an optional ginger-soy dipping sauce, I prefer to serve the tuna plain with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a lemon wedge.

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc

Gemelli with Tuna and Cherry Tomatoes


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
Serves 4

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.

Tuna being mashed in oil and garlic
Tuna being mashed in oil and garlic

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.

Tuna with tomatoes and capers added
Tuna with tomatoes and capers added

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.

Pasta plated
Pasta plated

Wine Pairing: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Frascati


Grilled Tuna Steaks



Except for shellfish and calamari, I’m not a fish lover. Nevertheless, we try to have fish twice a week and for that reason, I purchased Fish: Complete Guide to Buying and Cookingby Mark Bittman. It’s given me confidence not only in the kitchen but also at the fish market.

It was a great night for grilling and I can’t think of any fish better for the grill than thick tuna steaks—especially for a meat-lover like myself. I chose Bittman’s “Basic Grilled Tuna,” which calls for a simple marinade that seems to enhance the meaty character of the fish.

For sides, I prepared a simple couscous and roasted cherry tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red-pepper flakes.

Basic Grilled Tuna Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Fish.
1/3 cup high quality soy sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 thick yellowfin tuna steaks about 3/4 lbs each
Ground black pepper
Lemon wedges and extra virgin olive oil for finishing.

1. Mix the soy sauce and olive oil.

2. Place the tuna in a square baking dish just large enough to hold the fish and sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper.

3. Cover the fish with the marinade, cover, and let the fish marinate in the fridge for no more than one hour. Marinating for too long a period may overwhelm the subtle flavors of the fish.

Tuna steaks marinating
Tuna steaks marinating

4. Heat a grill pan greased lightly with some olive oil. When hot, grill the tuna on one side for about 5 minutes, basting occasionally.

5. Turn with a fish spatula and continue to cook for about 2 minutes. This timing should yield a steak that’s still somewhat rare in the middle. You can cook longer if you like, testing for your desired level of doneness by lightly prying open the tuna with a thin bladed pairing knife. Avoid overcooking.

6. Place the steaks on warmed plates and finish with a nice drizzle of high quality extra virgin olive oil.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc


Fresh Tuna Steaks with Marsala and Mushrooms


Yesterday, I found some really good looking yellow-fin tuna steaks at the market. So when I got home, I scoured my cookbooks to look for a new recipe for these beauties. As I didn’t want it to be a late night, time was a deciding factor in my choice.


I turned to Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian, a great source for dishes that can be prepared in 45 minutes or less, and found just what I was looking for: “Fresh Tuna Steaks with Marsala and Mushrooms.”

It’s a recipe that takes 20 minutes from start to finish and yields a succulent dish, with the Marsala perfectly tying the knot between the meaty tuna and the earthy mushrooms.

Here’s a link to the recipe online.

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir. Look for one with no more than 13.5% alcohol.