This is a pretty ballsy, deceptively simple dish that my cousin used to make when I was a kid. I got back in to making it in the last few years. It relies heavily on the quality of ingredients you use. If you john west tuna, roma pasta, and bargain oil it will taste terrible. If you use good pasta, high end canned tuna, and really good oil you are laughing. Have a read of the note at the bottom before you start!
What do you need
2 red onions, sliced into half rings, not diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
2 – 3 cans of tuna preserved in oil. the Spanish do some pretty mean preserved tuna which you should be able to find in good food shops. At the very least use Ortiz canned tuna
A half glass of white wine
Good quality olive oil
So here goes….
Bring your pasta water to the boil. Try to use as little water as is necessary and salt it heavily. Open your cans of tuna. Pour a little of the tuna oil into a saute pan. Add your onions and fry over a medium heat, stirring continuously until softened.
Add your pasta to the now boiling water. Add your tuna to the onions and garlic. Increase heat and add half glass of white wine. It should bubble up and begin to boil off quickly. Before it boils off totally add you now just under al dente pasta with a couple of spoonfulls of pasta water. Keep the dish over the heat for two minutes until the pasta cooked to al dente. At this stage most of the liquid should be absorbed and the dish should be more dry than wet. Give it a big pour of your good oil and fork the pasta to get some air at it.
Finish with some parmesan cheese and serve.
I have to write a note on this dish. It sounds simple and is simple. But it takes practice to get the timing right. The whole point of the dish is the flavour given to the pasta by the mixture of gluten, tuna oil and a touch of white wine. If you over cook the pasta before you add it to the tuna and onions it will be not absorb flavours well. If you take the pasta out to soon, if it is too al dente, there will not be enough liquid in the sauce to cook the pasta through and crucially, the glutens in the pasta will not be released into the pasta water you use. Instead of having a slightly dry dish coated with an emulsion of white wine, tuna oil, and pasta gluten, you will have an undercooked wet and oil dish.
But then you finish the dish with olive oil so what does it matter?? The pasta if cooked correctly will look slightly creamy, like a drier carbonara due to the emulsified white wine, tuna oil, and gluten. Adding the good olive oil and parmesan at the end gives another layer of flavour to the dish and the acidity of the fruit in good oil help to lift the dish slightly. Simple things take the most practice!