I’m a fan of all varieties of tinned tuna but especially the kind that comes in olive oil, which makes a wonderful pasta sauce when combined with good quality cherry tomatoes and plenty of garlic. Adding a leafy green like cavolo nero improves things even more and this is one of those rare sauces that goes well with wholewheat pasta.
We’ve been eating this dish on a weekly basis for ages. It’s a good end of the week dinner when most of the fresh veg has been used up. I buy tomatoes and cavolo nero regularly, freezing the cavolo nero straightaway and waiting for the tomatoes to ripen over the course of the week. The rest of the ingredients come from the cupboard and the whole dish takes no more than 25 minutes to cook. It feels virtuous but doesn’t taste it; the tomato sauce is light and sweet with bites of rich, flaky tuna, all tied together with a big hit of garlic, starchy pasta water and a squeeze of lemon.
Cavolo nero freezes brilliantly if you’re not going to use it straightaway. Wash the leaves, strip out the stalks* and keep the leaves whole rather than chopping them. Squash into a bag or container and place in the freezer. To cook, put the whole, frozen leaves into boiling water for a minute then scoop out, drain and chop, then add to a pan to saute. It’s much easier to fish whole leaves out of the boiling water than chopped up ones.
*I used to use a knife to remove cavolo nero stalks but then I saw Jamie Oliver hold the base of a stalk in one hand and use the other hand to strip the leaves from base to tip, which is much more efficient.
- 160g tuna in olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 250g good quality ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 150g cavolo nero, stalks removed
- 180g wholewheat penne pasta
- salt and pepper
- a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- Place a medium saucepan over a medium heat and fill with boiled, salted water. This will be used to blanch the cavolo nero and then to cook the pasta.
- Place a large frying pan over a low to medium heat and add all of the olive oil from a 160g tin of tuna along with 4 chopped garlic cloves. Fry until the garlic starts to colour then add 250g of halved cherry tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar.
- While the tomatoes are cooking, blanch 200g of cavolo nero leaves in the saucepan with the boiling water for 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Allow to cool for a few minutes then squeeze out as much water as you can (it doesn’t matter if some is left), transfer to a chopping board, roughly chop the leaves and add them to the pan with the tomatoes. Squash the tomatoes a little to release more of their juice into the sauce.
- Cook 180g of pasta according to the instructions on the packet, reducing the time by 1-2 minutes so that the pasta is al dente. Once the pasta is cooked scoop out a mug of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add it to the tomato pan, adding a little of the pasta water to loosen the sauce.
- Add the tuna to the pasta, stirring gently so that the tuna doesn’t break up too much, then taste and season with salt and pepper. The tuna doesn't need to be cooked, just warmed up. Add more pasta water if the sauce looks dry then turn off the heat under the saucepan.
- Transfer to warm plates, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over each plate and eat immediately.