I had leftover plain penne from yesterday – I ended up boiling too much and figured, well, I can always make Italian pasta salad. Instead, today for lunch, I remembered one of many ‘quick’ lunches at my Zia Concetta’s farm in Italy, especially on days when we would be running home from the mercato up the street after hours and hours of shopping.
In a hurry, my aunt, without flinching, would grab olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, fresh basil (these are all staples in her kitchen throughout the summer) and on some occasions, a can of Italian tuna, which is the inspiration for this recipe. She would never use ‘left-over’ pasta, always fresh, and within 15 minutes, lunch would be served, alongside cheeses, meats, breads, and plenty of fruit. And of course, un caffè corretto to finish the meal. We would eat, laugh, and talk about what we would make for ‘cena.’
With a 1/2 lb. of penne rigate:
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced fine
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
4-6 basil leaves, chiffonade
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp. grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese
1 can Italian tuna, drained
If you don’t have leftover plain pasta, boil water and cook penne to desired tenderness. Drain and now you’re ready to assemble this quick, delicious lunch.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, and sauté a couple of minutes (but do not brown or burn the garlic!). Add the tomatoes and basil, salt, and black pepper. Continue to cook over medium heat a few minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down. Add the tuna, breaking it up with the spoon, and then the pasta. Mix thoroughly to coat the pasta with the oil and to incorporate the tuna. Add the cheese, cook a few more minutes and serve! Buon Apetito!
It’s almost sacreligious to even think about putting cheese on or in an Italian seafood pasta dish. I have heard on my travels that the reason is because cheese makes the dish bitter, but I admit, my pasta is naked without cheese. So, whether linguini with clams or cioppino, I never refrain from adding whatever my cravings dictate – hot pepper flakes, sliced chili, more olive oil, and even cheese.
mercato – market
caffè corretto – espresso with a shot of liqueur, typically grappa
cena – dinner