Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

maki
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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
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This is a variation on a famous Italian sauce for a dish called vitello tonnato, but it omits the vitello (veal) and just uses the sauce to toss with pasta. It is a very frugal dish since you can make dinner for two with 1 can of tuna, pasta, and a bit of olive oil and seasonings. (You may want to add a green salad or something for a complete meal.)

  • 1 can of tuna, well drained
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 filets of canned anchovies (you can omit this if you like, but add more salt in that case)
  • About 1/4 cup or more of good quality olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tbs. of pickled capers
  • salt and pepper to taste, if needed (pepper yes, salt probably not)

  • cooked pasta (about 100g / 3oz per person dry)

Put the tuna and garlic in a food processor with chopping blade. Turn the processor on, and while it’s running, slowly add the olive oil until it forms a smooth, thick sauce. Add lemon juice, capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well with hot pasta. Makes enough for 2-3 servings.

Variations:

  • Use about 2 Tbs. of miso instead of the anchovies for a tuna-miso-sauce that’s quite interesting. Try on udon noodles.
  • Add some chopped olives
  • A traditional tonnato sauce often has chopped boiled eggs in it, but I prefer it without.

A downmarket version

Mash up tuna with plenty of mayonnaise. Add some chopped green onion and mix well. Squeeze in a little lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Good on cold noodles for a sort of cold noodle tuna salad pasta.

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SewingDiva
Bento-ing from: Westwood › Massachusetts › USA
Joined: 25 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 48 weeks ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

Oh yes - we love this sauce and have been eating it for years! We use tuna packed in oil, which is not as salty as water pack, and right at the end add 2 tabelspoons of butter.

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Phyllis

Courtney
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 9 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 31 weeks ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

Yay! Another fab tuna idea. :)

annenayne
Bento-ing from: › California › USA
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 22 weeks ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

Interesting, and so timely! I will have to give this one a try. I wonder if I can get the BF to eat it, I'm getting pretty tired of our regular rotation of Foods We Will Both Eat.

bronwyncarlisle
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Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 28 weeks ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

Just wait until you have kids. My son, at the age of 10, gave me a list of acceptable foods. It was very short. As I remember, it went like this:

Stake (sic), tegel chicken, wiener schnitzel (can't remember how he spelled that), lasagne, mince (stewed ground beef to Americans), peas, mushrooms, chips.

He's now a good and quite adventurous cook though. Odd in someone who used to inspect his food so very carefully for signs of disgusting things like pepper or onion.

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annenayne
Bento-ing from: › California › USA
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 22 weeks ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

Ha! That list is probably longer than my BF's. He's 38 and I actually considered buying one of those trendy "how to sneak vegetables into your kids' food" cookbooks.

I used to be picky like your son.

Funny, you reminded me of my childhood there - my brother and I used to write "Mom promised no more tuna casserole" on every page of the calendars that my mother hung in the kitchen every year for YEARS.

BarbJ
Bento-ing from: Cupertino › California › USA
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 21 weeks ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

This sounds delicious! I'll have to make it as soon as I find some decent canned tuna.

I too prefer the oil packed tuna, I think it tastes much better than water packed. The water packed to me tastes dull and bland and a bit like cardboard. But it's getting harder and harder to find oil packed tuna around here.

My local grocery discontinued a Portuguese brand of oil packed tuna, called 'Queen of the Seas" and marked them way down. I bought every can they had and was in tuna heaven for a few weeks. The can is shaped like a sardine can, and it was the most delicious tuna! Alas, I've run out now. Who else dislikes this disturbing trend of tasteless water packed tuna?

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zora
Bento-ing from: Nashville › Tennessee › USA
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 33 weeks ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

thanks Maki! I'm definitely going to try this.

A random question regarding anchovies: once I open the tin and use a few, I usually put the remainder into a plastic container and into the refrigerator, but then I have anxiety about how long they'll keep.
Does anyone know the estimated fridge-life of anchovies?
Thanks! :)

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my daily bento

maki
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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
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Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

I try not to keep them too long, because they seem to turn rather mushy. Maybe a few days, though I guess they dont exactly go bad since they are cured.

mosaica
Bento-ing from: › Vermont › USA
Joined: 11 Mar 2008
User offline. Last seen 3 years 37 weeks ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

I'm not sure about the 'fridge, but I put leftovers in a ziplock bag, close the bag, and then from outside I sort of squish them around so they're each separate, then I can open the frozen bag and get just one out.

Hth!

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csyoung
Bento-ing from: Pittsburgh › Pennsylvania › USA
Joined: 3 Jan 2010
User offline. Last seen 4 years 36 weeks ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

Being probably more italian than not, I agree tonnato sauce is great. For folks who say 'eww, I hate anchovies' just don't tell them they are in there. There is a HUGE difference between Joe's pizza shop anchovies, which in the US a lot of people associate with 'anchovies' and real anchovies. In this sauce (well, not Maki's but mine), when you are cooking it, you put the anchovies into some oil and garlic on the stove and the anchovies just melt into the sauce, you wouldn't even know they were there except for that added depth of flavor. I will defer to the Japanese folks here, but I would guess that would be the umamami. If you cant get good anchovies from an Italian grocer or wet market, try Spanish or Portuguese and I am sure you can come up with some good ones.

As to the question about keeping them and texture etc. You can sometimes get them just packed in salt, or more likely canned in oil. There are also a 'fresh' type you can get that are white and in some sort of brine I think, but I dont really use those much. As to freshness, they are cured, so unless storing for an extended amount of time, i dont really worry much about it. Open, smell and use if they are ok. Depending on the application, you might be more interested in texture then I would worry more about that personally, but for those type of applications I like to buy whole fresh sardines from the fish market and then clean and use them that day.

another_amanda
Bento-ing from: › USA
Joined: 12 Aug 2009
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Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

Yay anchovies! This recipe sounds wonderful. My family has always made what I suppose must be a super-downmarket version: anchovies cooked in olive oil until they fall apart, a handful of seasoned breadcrumbs, and pasta. The roommates don't appreciate the smell, but it tastes wonderful.

camillenparadise
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

Can this sauce be frozen and successfully thawed?
Thanks!
Camille

Folly
Bento-ing from: San Francisco
Joined: 5 Jul 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 27 weeks ago.
There's anchovies ... and then there are anchoves

I have to agree with csyoung about the difference in anchovies. So often our first (and possibly only) encounter with anchovies are those hard, brown cardboard ones on pizza or caesar salad. I once had some in a restaurant that were so good that I asked the waiter what brand they were. He proudly told me that they were Spanish (as was he) and brought me the can so that I could write down the name. I bought those for years, until a couple of professional food people introduced me to French and Italian brands that come packed in oil and in small glass jars. They are expensive, but I consider them a magic ingredient when I have really good tomatoes that deserve a good partner.

These jarred anchovies keep for months in the refrigerator. The olive oil hardens around them and protects them.

Folly
Bento-ing from: San Francisco
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User offline. Last seen 1 year 27 weeks ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

My husband loves canned tuna, but I find that most American brands smell like cat food. Last summer some friends served a wonderful salad nicoise with some Italian canned tuna (As do Mar) that really tasted like cooked tuna. I tracked it down at Whole Foods and was shocked that it cost twiced as much as regular canned tuna. But I bought a can any way.

Then a few months ago I followed a food thread about canned tuna and discovered two West Coast brands: Dave's out of Santa Cruz, California, and the Tuna Guys out of Seattle, Washington. I ordered a few cans online for Dh's birthday and will never go back to Charlie the Tuna..

I'll be using one of these for Maki's recipe. Does anyone have a preference for type of pasta to use with Tonnato Sauce?

RoseFaery
Joined: 10 Aug 2010
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Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

I've had a few different brands of anchovies and have never found any that I really liked, but I Love sardines. I think I might try this sauce with sardines instead.

Maki: I've noticed a lot of your recipes seem very heavy on the salt. I usually try to go very light on salt, as I don't eat much prepared foods and can taste it very well in small amounts, but I've heard as long as you are healthy and drink enough water it's okay. I've also heard that the amount of salt you should get each day is only as much as in one jarred in brine olive. Do you ever worry about the amount of salt in your diet and have you checked with a doctor? Of course I don't know how often you eat these very salty recipes, or how often you have them together in one day or week, I'm just wondering.

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maki
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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
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Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

I don't really think that my recipes are that high in salt, but of course everyone has their own individual preferences. I don't eat a lot of packaged foods either, and when I do I find a lot of them to be very salty. The same goes for a lot of restaurant food. The great thing with any recipe is that you can adjust the seasonings to your liking. I strongly believe that any home cooked meal is going to be lower in salt than living on fast food, takeout and packaged foods.

Also, sardines won't have the same effect in this recipe - note that the anchovies act as the seasoning for the sauce (there's no added salted is needed). I know that many people have a problem with anchovies eaten as-is, but it takes on a very different character when its used as a seasoning as it is here. (It is connected to the time honored tradition of using preserved fish as a seasoning - garum used by the Romans, Thai and other Asian fish sauce, etc. You wouldn't want to drink any of those straight, but in foods they are something totally different.) You can rinse the anchovies briefly to get rid of excess salt if needed.

bronwyncarlisle
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Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
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Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

I can shed a bit of light on the salt issue I think. I've done a bit of reading about it in the scientific literature lately.

The most recent research seems to indicate that for most people salt is not an issue at all. That's right, no increased blood pressure, nothing. Eat as much as you like, within reason - even water can kill you in excess. About a third or so of people (actually Americans, all the studies seem to have been done on Americans) are salt sensitive however, and lots of salt is bad for them even if they don't have high blood pressure. It's not easy to tell who is and who isn't salt sensitive without lab tests, but "African Americans" (which I imagine would include any people of African descent) and people with salt sensitive relatives (i.e. a family history of heart disease) are more likely to be so.

Because public health professionals are concerned with the health of the population as whole, they tend to make sweeping statements that everyone should do whatever. You need to keep in mind that this is not the same thing as the health of each individual improving. If 50% of people get healthier and 25% get less healthy, the health of the population as a whole has still improved and the public health people are happy. They think in averages, as they must.

It is up to each person to decide on the risks they are happy to take. I have no family history of heart disease or hypertension, my own blood pressure is that of a person half my age, and I'm not of African descent, so I put as much salt on my food as tastes good to me.

Leelee
Bento-ing from: Stevenage › UK
Joined: 10 Aug 2010
User offline. Last seen 21 weeks 1 day ago.
Re: Tonnato sauce - a rich tuna sauce for pasta

Mmmm I think I shall be making the miso version tonight for my dinner! I was running out of ideas of what to do! :D

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