Monday, March 29, 2010

Ziti with Tuna, Red Onions, and Cannellini Beans

I love a recipe that takes old and familiar flavors and transforms them into something completely different.  In his Urban Italian, Andrew Carmellini says that this pasta recipe pays homage to tuna casserole, but I think a more appropriate and more flattering comparison can be made to salad Nicoise.  Between the tang of the lemons and the briny olives and capers, this recipe really is the pasta version of a salad Nicoise.  While the dish is meant to be served warm, I brought the leftover pasta to work and enjoyed it as a cold salad as well.  Now if only there was an easy way to make Cobb salad into a pasta dish...

Ziti with Tuna, Red Onions, and Cannellini Beans
Adapted from Urban Italian

  • 1 lb penne 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for finishing the dish
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups good-quality canned tuna in olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
  • juice and zest of 3 lemons
  • 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers, drained
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp toasted breadcrumbs
  1. Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot.  Cook the pasta in the water according to the package directions.  Drain the pasta and toss with a spoonful of olive oil to prevent the pasta pieces from sticking together.  Set the pasta aside and dry the pot.
  2. Add 2 tbsp olive oil the the pot used to cook the pasta and heat the oil over medium-low heat.  
  3. Add the red onion to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes.
  4. Pour in the white wine and red pepper flakes.  Bring the wine to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost completely reduced, about 3 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the beans and the pasta to the pot and continue to cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove the pot from the heat. 
  6. Mix in the cherry tomatoes, tuna, olives, lemon juice and zest, parsley, basil, capers, and oregano with the pasta.  Season the pasta with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve the pasta drizzled with olive oil and topped with the toasted breadcrumbs. 

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