Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pasta with Tuna and White Beans

It has come to my attention that it has been a few posts since I offered an original recipe, so I’m thinking that it’s about time that I do so. The timing is perfect, because I recently made a pasta dish with tune and white beans that I was quite pleased with. It started as one of those I-have-nothing-planned-for-dinner-let’s-see-what-I-have-in-the-kitchen nights. What I found was some multi-coloured rotini, canned tuna, canned cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is kind of an oddball health food product, a crunchy powder made from brewer’s yeast. It’s nutty and a little salty and is delicious sprinkled on top of a lot of dishes, so I thought I’d finish off my pasta dish with it. I wound up not using it, but it’s still a viable candidate to complete this recipe with. Instead of the nutritional yeast, I sprinkled breadcrumbs I had left over from the garnish for the Chilled Avocado Soup on top of the pasta. I loved the breadcrumbs in this: they added flavour, colour and, texture.
I also added sliced onions, broccoli florets, and garlic to the dish. This recipe makes for a healthy meal, considering the tuna, the beans, and all the vegetables. I used tri-colour rotini for pasta here, but I’m sure whole-wheat pasta would be good here as well.
In terms of technique, I basically combined everything but the pasta together in a large skillet while the pasta was cooking. Some of the pasta water served to add some moisture and flavour, as well as to help bind everything together. As I have started doing every time I cook pasta, I did not drain the pot when the noodles were ready. Instead, I used a pasta lifter to pull the rotini right out of the pot, and into the skillet. This way, starch remains on the pasta and it binds better with the sauce or other ingredients.
I served this in shallow bowls, and finished it with a little salt, a light drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. The results were tasty and satisfying, a diverse meal in one bowl. The recipe is versatile as well: you could play with different types of pastas, different vegetables, and different beans. And perhaps you’ll agree with me when I say that it’s hard to beat a delicious meal that comes together in under half an hour!

Pasta with Tuna and White Beans
Serves 2

½ lb. tri-coloured rotini
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for finishing
½ medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup broccoli florets, blanched and shocked
½ pint cherry tomatoes
1 5 oz. can tuna, drained
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Spicy Paprika Breadcrumbs (recipe below)

Heat a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the pasta in it until al dente, about eight or nine minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened and translucent, about six minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute. Add the broccoli cook until it begins to turn bright green, three or four minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes, and cook until skins begin to crack, and then stir in the tuna and beans, and allow them to heat through, another two minutes or so.

When the pasta is cooked, add a ladle or two of the starchy pasta water to the skillet. Use a pasta lifter to take the pasta out of the water, and add it to the skillet. When all the pasta has been added, leave the skillet on the heat for a minute or so to allow everything to cook together.

Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and finish with a light drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs.

Spicy Paprika Breadcrumbs

1 4x4x1/2-inch slice soft white sandwich bread with crust
1 tbsp. butter
¾ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. coarse kosher salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Finely grind bread in food processor. Melt butter in medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs to skillet; stir until golden, about 1 minute. Add paprika, coarse salt, and cayenne; stir until breadcrumbs are crisp, about a minute longer. Transfer to a small bowl and cool.

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