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Spaghetti Al Tonno – Nothing Fishy About This “Meat” Sauce

Spaghetti Al Tonno – Nothing Fishy About This “Meat” Sauce

Spaghetti al tonno is one of my all-time favorite "go to" pasta dishes, and I hope this re-make of an old video helps make it one of yours. I did a very similar spaghetti with spicy tuna sauce for About.com a long time ago, but never got around to doing an official Food Wishes version.

Having said that, there really is no “official” recipe, as this is the type of dish that gets made a little differently every time. Not different on purpose, mind you, but different since that’s what happens when you cook without written recipes, which by the way, is the recommended method. 

I love a classic meat sauce as much as the next half-Italian, but when I want something quick and easy for a weeknight meal, I reach for the tuna. By the time you bring a pot of water to a boil, choose a wine, and cook your pasta, the sauce should be done. What if all that sounds great, but you don’t like fish? Then, this is perfect.

As I say in the video, the taste and texture is really closer to a veal sauce, than one made with fish. Above and beyond the non-fishy flavor, this is also lower in fat and calories, in case you’re into that kind of thing. So, the next time you’re in the mood for a quick spaghetti with “meat” sauce, I hope you give this delicious pasta sauce a try. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 Portions Spaghetti Al Tonno:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 anchovy filet
2 tablespoons capers
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine (Note: if you can’t use wine, don’t. Use a splash of stock)
3 cups crushed San Marzano tomatoes
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 tsp dried oregano
salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
7 ounces oil-packed tuna, drained (reserve and use oil!)
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
12 ounces dry spaghetti
Parmigiano-Reggiano for top
That Other Meat Sauce

That Other Meat Sauce

We did a classic Italian bolognese sauce not too long ago, which reminded me that I’ve actually never posted a basic, Italian-American meat sauce. This sauce goes by many names, including Sunday sauce, since that’s the day it’s traditionally made, but for me growing up, this was just called “sauce.”

This is one of those primal recipes that always follows the same procedure, yet almost never contains exactly the same ingredients. I was raised on a blend of beef, pork, and chicken, but any and all leftover proteins can, and must, be added to the pot.

Meatballs are a great choice; as are things like pigs feet, neck bones, and other similar cuts. The tougher the meat, the better it’s going to be in this sauce. Besides playing meat roulette, I’ll also switch different herbs like basil in and out, as well as include the occasional season vegetable.

You can also vary your results here with different tomato products. I went old-school and hand-crushed whole plums, but you can also use crushed or pureed tomatoes as well. The finer and smoother the tomatoes are processed, the thicker your sauce will be, so keep that in mind. Speaking of tomatoes; yes, it is much better to caramelize the tomato paste with the onions before you add the San Marzanos, but I didn't because Grandma didn't, and also, I forgot. 

As long as you cook the meat long enough, and season thoughtfully, there’s really no way this sauce isn’t going to be great. So, while you may not have grown up in an Italian-American home, with this comforting sauce simmering on the stove every Sunday, your family still can. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 6 portions:
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 beef shank
2 pounds pork ribs
2 bone-in chicken thighs
1 diced onion
6 cloves garlic
3 (28-oz) cans San Marzano plum tomatoes, crushed or blended smooth
(Note - any canned tomato product will work. Try with pureed or already crushed tomatoes and save a step)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups water, more as needed
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Creamy Bay Scallop Spaghetti – An Almost Perfect Post-Holidays Pasta

Creamy Bay Scallop Spaghetti – An Almost Perfect Post-Holidays Pasta

After all those rich, complicated, and time-consuming holiday recipes, I’m always craving something light, fast, and easy; and this creamy bay scallop spaghetti is all that and more. Literally “more,” in that this is not light, but quite delicious, and in roughly the time it takes you to boil spaghetti, the sauce should be just about ready.

With some similar recipes to this, the chef will have you remove the scallops as soon as they’re seared, to be added back right at the end. Sounds smart since these little mollusks only take a few minutes to cook, but I think it’s a mistake. Yes, the scallops will be smaller and firmer using my method, but the trade-off is a much more flavorful sauce.

Sometimes cooks are so afraid to overcook and ruin something, they never extract as much flavor as possible. Sure, if you boiled these bay scallops another ten minutes or so, they’d get start getting dry and rubbery, but here they’re still plenty tender and moist enough, and I think you’ll agree the sherry sauce benefits significantly.

Regarding the sherry wine: If you can’t have or don’t want to use it, you’re on your own with replacements. While this would probably still work with none, or any number of sort-of-sweet, sort-of-acidic substations, I make mine with sherry, so I can’t tell you what will happen if you stray.

The meat’s another story. Feel free to switch out the scallops with any cubed protein, so really, if you think about it, I just shoed you like a dozen new recipes. You’re welcome! I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 appetizer-sized portions:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 pound bay scallops
2 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp lemon zest
pinch red pepper flakes
1/3 cup sherry wine
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon or to taste
8 oz cooked thick spaghetti
2 tbsp Italian parsley, divided
Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste