Weeknight Dinner: Tuna & Arugula Pasta

Main Dishes, Recipes

After the success of the bacon & arugula pasta, I thought I’d try combining pasta and arugula again. This time, I used a different protein – tuna packed in olive oil, specifically, a fancy gold can of Genova Tonno tuna. And yes, I used cellentani pasta for this one also. That corkscrew shape is just too fun. What follows is a dinner that is perfect for quickly throwing together after a long day at work. It has the comforting familiarity of a tuna casserole without the sodium and fattiness of a canned soup base. Plus, it’s tossed with arugula for a peppery dose of greens.

Tuna & Arugula Pasta - the finished product

Tuna & Arugula Pasta – the finished product

This tuna pasta also keeps well for the next day’s lunch, an important trait we think about when we’re planning out our weeknight dinner rotation. Just remember to get the tuna packed in oil. The kind packed in water (which I usually buy for tuna salad and other cold dishes) will get mushy when you try to saute it. Another key flavor enhancer is the anchovy paste; I used to be able to find it only in Italian grocery stores or fancier markets like Gelsons, but lately I’ve seen these tubes sold at our local VONS and Ralphs as well. It’s worth the investment – the tube will keep for months in the refrigerator and the fishy paste is great for adding an umami quality to Italian dishes.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1/2 box dried pasta (about 8 ounces)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot, finely diced

1 5-ounce can tuna packed in oil (pictured here is a 3 oz can for dinner-for-one)

1 teaspoon anchovy paste

1-2 cups arugula

Juice of one lemon wedge plus a few wedges for serving

Step 1: Saute

Step 1: Saute

Step 1: Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic and shallots until the garlic is a light brown color and the shallots are translucent.

Step 2: Tuna

Step 2: Tuna

Step 2: Drain out some of the oil from the canned tuna and add the contents to the pan. Stir to break up the chunks. Add the anchovy paste and saute for a few minutes.

Step 3: Mix

Step 3: Mix

Step 3: Add in the pasta and stir to combine. Season with black pepper (plenty) and salt (just a bit, as the anchovy paste will naturally add plenty of saltiness). Just before serving, toss in the arugula and mix until wilted. Drizzle with lemon juice for brightness.

Step 4: Serve & Enjoy

Step 4: Serve & Enjoy

Step 4: Ready in less than 30 minutes, all that’s left is to dig in and enjoy! If you’re looking to make an ordinary weeknight dinner a bit more special, this tuna & arugula pasta pairs nicely with a glass of Chardonnay. Serve with lemon wedges for extra zing, if desired. Bon appetit!

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Weeknight Dinner: Bacon & Arugula Cellentani

Main Dishes, Recipes

I know the discontinuation of Google Reader is old news, but a few weeks ago I finally migrated my RSS feeds over to Feedly and have been playing catch-up with some of my favorite food blogs for inspiration. Anywho, last week Adam at The Amateur Gourmet posted an apparently popular recipe for bacon, chickpea, and spinach pasta and I, remembering the bacon I have leftover in the fridge after making a boatload of onion compote for the barbecue, was inspired to make my own bacon pasta for dinner. Unfortunately I had neither chickpea nor spinach on hand, so as much as I love Lidia Bastianich, I had to pave my own path that night. A half-eaten bag of arugula, also a casualty of the Copycat FO Burger, called out to me (as did its friend Canned Tomatoes sitting in the pantry) and before I knew it, the dish really came together.

Bacon & Arugula Pasta

Bacon & Arugula Pasta

It’s hearty and rustic without really using much meat, and it was an easy, comforting weeknight dish that yielded 4 meals. Plus, these new cellentani (also known as cavatappi) from Barilla were fun to eat and perfectly held the light tomato-bacon sauce. You can substitute any shaped pasta of your choosing; I imagine penne or ziti would also work well.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

3-4 strips of applewood smoked bacon (the fancy thick-cut slices are ideal)

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced (I used 6. It was awesome.)

1/4 cup sweet onion, diced (or about 1/4 to 1/2 of a medium-sized onion)

Optional: Dried red pepper flakes, a few shakes

1 14.5-ounce can of whole tomatoes, hand crushed (you can also use canned diced or crushed tomatoes)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 16-ounce box of dried pasta (you might not need all of it – I used about 3/4 of the box and saved the leftover plain pasta for another dish)

1 generous handful (about 1 cup) arugula, washed and dried

Step 1: Cook the pasta

Step 1: Cook the pasta

Step 1: Boil just enough water to cover the pasta by an inch or so (you’ll want to save the nice and starchy pasta water for the sauce later). Salt it and cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Step 2: Bacon Lardon

Step 2: Bacon Lardon

Step 2: Meanwhile, cut the bacon slices into 1/2-inch strips (in case you’re curious, these are also known as lardon). Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.

Step 3: Sizzle like bacon (just kidding - render the fat)

Step 3: Sizzle like bacon (just kidding – render the fat)

Step 3: Render the fat from the bacon pieces, stirring periodically to brown both sides of each piece.

Step 4: Onions, garlic, pepper flakes

Step 4: Onions, garlic, pepper flakes

Step 4: When the bacon is sufficiently browned but not quite shriveled to a crisp, add the garlic and onion and red pepper flakes, if using. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Depending on the size and shape of your pasta, this will be about the time when you’ll need to — RESERVING the pasta water — drain (and rinse, if you have to) and set it aside. Hold onto the pasta water, at least a cup or two of it.

Step 5a: Crush the whole tomatoes (if using crushed, just open the can)

Step 5a: Crush the whole tomatoes (if using crushed, just open the can)

Step 5a: Crush the tomatoes by hand if using whole tomatoes.

Step 5b: Add the tomatoes

Step 5b: Add the tomatoes

Step 5b: Add the crushed tomatoes and about a ladle or two’s worth of pasta water. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes to cook down and thicken.

Step 6: Herbs

Step 6: Herbs

Step 6: I sprinkled in a bit of granulated sugar at this point, not more than a teaspoon, to balance the acidity. Add the dried herbs and continue to simmer.

Step 7: Stir and simmer

Step 7: Stir and simmer

Step 7: Stir the sauce periodically. If you feel it is getting too thick, add more pasta water. The sauce should resemble a spaghetti sauce but preferably a bit less viscous.

Step 7: Add pasta

Step 8: Add pasta

Step 8: When the sauce resembles a good ol’ spaghetti sauce, add about half to two-thirds of the pasta. Stir well. Add more pasta water or pasta or both until you’ve hit a ratio of evenly coated, tomato-y pasta. Just be careful not to thin out the sauce too much at this point and again, you will probably not use up all of the cooked pasta.

Step 9: Arugula

Step 9: Arugula

Step 9: Just before serving, pile on the arugula and mix in, letting the steam from the hot pasta wilt the leaves. You’ll want to do this last because actually cooking the arugula will make it bitter.

Wilting arugula

Wilting arugula

A sprinkling of fresh cracked black pepper and this is ready to serve.

Buon appetito~!

Buon appetito~!

Buon appetito — a rustic-tasting dinner that can be thrown together in as little as 30 minutes! When I first made this, Martin was working late, so I kept the sauce on a constant simmer and periodically added pasta water as needed over the course of about 20-30 minutes. My total prep and cooking time was about an hour because I wanted to toss in the pasta closer to serving time. Still, not bad for a weeknight and if you’re just cooking for 2 like we are, this means plenty of leftovers for lunch. And in case you were wondering, microwaved arugula is a bit bitter but certainly edible. If you can, bring along some fresh sprigs and mix them in after nuking the pasta and sauce only for best next-day results. Cheers!

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