Tuesday Night Food: Tuna Pasta for A Vegetarian

I’m a vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian for something like 6 years now. Every once-in-a-while, though, I fall off the vegetarian wagon and onto a fish sandwich. It turns out, fried halibut isn’t such a bad place to land. Sure, you get a little greasy, but you also get an excuse to eat tartar sauce. Sometimes, as I gaze down from the veggie wagon at the Land of Meat, I think that perhaps these tiny adventures into Fried Fishyville mean I’m perhaps ready to take bigger strides back into the meat world: Strides like canned tuna.

Last week, when I was bemoaning my lack of The Silver Spoon Pasta (TSSP) cookbook, I asked the Internet for help — and I found what seems to be a now-dunct blog about someone who (like me) had a romance with The Silver Spoon, but who (unlike me) also owned the book at the time the romance began. She had made Spaghetti con il Tonno (Spaghetti with Tuna), and it looked delicious. Go ahead. Look at her blog. Look at those luscious photos, that creamy, dreamy sauce, that beautiful green LeCreuset tea pot, and tell me you aren’t filled with dinner envy.

I knew I had to have it: the recipe (with tuna!), not the tea pot, since one of these things requires about $5 and the other would require me to give more blood than is physically possible. Besides, who wants my wimpy vegetarian blood, anyway?

So I went to the store and found the most earth-friendly tuna imaginable, because there’s been an ongoing discussion at my house about the poor, endangered tuna recently. It goes like this:

Me: I heard on NPR that bluefin tuna are going extinct!
Boyfriend: What! Oh no!
Me: It’s true!
Boyfriend: But they’re so tasty!

The tuna I selected was packed in water that was probably actually the tears of angels, cradling it in un-salted comfort, after its death of old age at the happiness ranch in the middle of the least polluted part of the sea. It still cost only $2. Everything in oil was more expensive (can I blame the Gulf for this?). Anyway, tuna in hand, it was time to cook.

Spaghetti con il Tunno
(from The Silver Spoon Pasta):

3 T Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T Tomato Paste (yep, the stuff in the teeny little can)
2.5 oz. tuna packed in oil, flaked
12 oz. spaghetti
salt, pepper, parsley.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Add tomato paste and about 1-2T of water and stir. Add tuna.

While all that’s happening, cook the pasta to al dente. Drain. Add pasta to skillet with tomato sauce; toss; eat.

Well, so that’s what they said to do. While I generally believe TSSP can do no wrong, I had this whole can of tuna — 8 full tuna-y ounces. Using only a fourth of it seemed wrong. It seemed wasteful. And it seemed very likely to make my entire fridge smell like tuna.

I dumped it all in. To make up for this, I added a full pound of pasta — what the hell, in for a penny — and the entire can of tomato paste. I didn’t have parsley, so I chopped up some fresh, spicy oregano that I’ve got growing by the window, shaded by a stack of unopened mail. The whole sauce took, maybe, 20 minutes to put together from start to end, including pasta cooking time.

The end result was a definitely tuna pasta. It was, in fact, too much tuna for me. A childhood of Tuna Casserole suddenly paraded through my mind; I kept expecting to find a cubed boiled egg in the plate, or a dash of non-fat mayonaisse. The tomato sauce was surprisingly good (god bless that oregano), but I couldn’t get over the tuna. It was — predictably — everywhere.

Boyfriend, however, loved it. He ate it with relish (not literally — no tartar sauce here), as though that tuna might be his last. He added some parmsan and some salt and had it for dinner last night and tonight; there’s still enough for a substantial meal tomorrow, too.

For me, it will be the last tuna, for a while. I’ve at least answered this question successfully: tuna is not at all a soft place to land, even when it’s endorsed by The Silver Spoon.

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4 Responses to Tuesday Night Food: Tuna Pasta for A Vegetarian

  1. Hisoka says:

    Thanks for the recipe! It’s so hard to stick to a vegetarian diet because I’m so used to the taste of “normal” food. It helps when you know how to cook and make it taste better. What are some recommended vegetarian cookbooks I should buy? I’ve been asking the guys over at <a href="Snubbr, and reading Amazon reviews and it seems like Veganomicon is the most popular one. What do you guys think? I’m still a beginner, so need easy recipes to start with.

    • Jenn says:

      I think Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian can be really helpful, particularly if you crave things that are traditionally meat dishes. If you want to get more vegetables into your diet overall, Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone has tons of recipes, organized by food type but also by the vegetable they contain, so you can easily stroll through a food market and pick out what’s in season and know you’ll have a recipe at home.

  2. Liz says:

    Add a wee bit of minced garlic and a pinch of hot red peppers..

  3. eileen moran-smith says:

    A vegetarian isn’t a Catholic abstaining from meat during lent. Why not prime rib for a vegetarian?

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