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Tuna Ragu, Parsley Aioli and Musings About Life and Food

September 20, 2013 by Joan Nova in Fish/Seafood, Italian, Recipe Development | 15 Comments

If you’re lucky — and, more importantly, if you’re open to it, you never stop learning. I mean every day. There’s always something new to see, hear, think about, learn; isn’t here?

Some lessons or new skills are BIG. They can even be exasperating, testing one’s resilience and determination. I’m thinking back to the early days of starting a blog and learning programming, computer-speak, photography, etc. That required patience (tons), one’s full attention and the use of a lot of brain cells over a long period of time.

I never stop learning about food too. My tastes, techniques and views are continually evolving although these lessons are more nuanced and somewhat like fine-tuning.

As I prepared this dish, I started to think about how my food tastes and pantry stocking have changed. These days, I focus on purity of product and balance in the meals I prepare. There’s hardly a can in my pantry … and I really do shop the perimeter of the supermarket.

Once in a while, I must admit a craving for some kind of comfort (nostalgic) food, like a red-sauced pasta dish, but I tend to lighten it up with added vegetables, update it with something new like this aioli, and portion-control it so that adding a little something excessive (that would be the aioli) is perfectly A-ok.

Of course, a good ragu begins with a medley of minced carrot, celery, onion and garlic. I made this sauce a little chunky just to get a larger quantity in.

I thought about adding capers and olives, but that would make it too much like a putanesca.

You wouldn’t use fresh tuna for this dish because it would be shame to overcook it, but a good quality tuna packed in olive oil, like this one which is wild caught and hand packed, is perfect.

I started the sauce by using the oil from the tuna to saute the vegetables before adding the strained tomatoes and added dry seasonings, a dash of sugar and some red chili. The whole tuna fillets were flaked and cooked down with the sauce. I squeezed a little lemon juice into the sauce to brighten it up before mixing in the spaghetti.

Speaking of spaghetti, I’ve been buying fancy and imported pasta for the last few years and one day recently I tried the Ronzoni Garden Delight variety which includes a 1/2 serving of vegetables per 2 oz. portion and 8 grams of protein. It holds up well at 8 minutes cooking and tastes good!

Pasta is best served after it’s been coated in the sauce pan.

I’ve learned the importance of balance. It’s  not something I used to think about, but now I think about it all the time.  For every ingredient that goes in the pot, I think of its counterpoint.

[I also learned to wipe the plate before taking photos, though I guess I need another lesson.]

I made the aioli by pureeing parsley and lemon zest with a little olive oil and then blending it with a small amount of mayo (the kind made with olive oil) and a dash of lemon juice.

This aioli provided a fatty balance to the acidic tomatoes and when mixed into the dish made the sauce creamy.

Another lesson of course is repurposing leftovers.

Here, I used the leftover tuna ragu with a little added tuna for lunch the next day. 



NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!


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  1. Love tuna and pasta together , Joan, and I use that line caught tuna too, it’s divine. In my tuna ragu I do use fresh tuna and home made pasta. I just add it in nice chunks at the very end and “just” cook it. Soo good. Love this sort of dish, Joan.
    La Diva Cucina recently posted..Incredible Farm Produce Plentiful in Northwestern MichiganMy Profile

  2. bellini says:

    I think as we have matured our palates have become more refined, we are more willing to try everything new. I still have a jar of tuna purchased in Cetara where they are famous for their is still waiting for me to find that perfect dish to highlight it. This seems like an excellent choice.

  3. Another inspired and tempting dish, Joan. Looks wonderful and I love what you did with it for lunch the next day even more–perfect!
    Victoria of Flavors of the Sun recently posted..Chicken, Leek, and Mushroom Mini PiesMy Profile

  4. “I really do shop the perimeter of the supermarket” – Me too!
    That aioli looks so fresh and inviting. Love your culinary thought-processes Joan – thanks for sharing. PS The drips on the plate make it look real :)

  5. Sometimes people can’t imagine ccombinations like this, but tuna with pasta is not uncommon in Italy and goes well in pasta salad also. A post like this really helps people to think about trying new dishes. In Italy they pack tuna in glass containers, which I wish we had here. Looks and I’m sure tasts great.
    Patricia Durr recently posted..Barns and Corn Fields in IowaMy Profile

  6. I use a lot of tuna in recipes but your sounds like another excellent one to add to my repertoire. Where to you get the particular tuna that you mention? I would love to buy some.

    And by the way, I love that the plate isn’t perfect. I makes me want to dig in to it’s sauce goodness.
    sandra axelrod recently posted..Yesterday the Cronut Today the Ramen BurgerMy Profile

  7. Norma - Platanos, Mangoes and Me! says:

    I am not a tuna fanatic, but if you made it I know its good. I love ragu and I hope to one day have this at your home.

  8. Fresh Market carries the tuna too, in several flavors.
    La Diva Cucina recently posted..Incredible Farm Produce Plentiful in Northwestern MichiganMy Profile

  9. sippitysup says:

    I know what you mean about the food lessons we learn every day. I’ve always been attuned to my food and I’ve always had an interest in cooking. But I learn so much every day from bloggers like you. You help me see myself and you help find myself. 5 years ago I wouldn’t have even registered why you mention how the tuna was caught and how it was processed. But over the course of my blog I have learned that these are valuable lessons. The how and why of my food is just as (maybe more) important than the taste. I learned all that from blogs. XOGREG
    sippitysup recently posted..Steakhouse Wedge Salad with Blackened Flatiron ‘Croutons’My Profile

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