- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Stocking a good pantry is the key to fast and fabulous meals. Quick cooking truly is all about smart shopping, and tuna and pasta are pantry staples at our house.

I keep a ready supply of all shapes of pasta, especially the thin angel hair, which cooks so quickly. I also keep pasta sauce, beans, roasted red peppers and black olives, plus plenty of Parmesan, onion and garlic, in the refrigerator so that spur-of-the-moment pasta suppers can be assembled when there isn’t much creativity to spare.

This recipe is just right for hectic days and milder weather. It’s light on the palate, and it’s easy on you. While the pasta is cooking to doneness, you puree a fun pasta sauce made from canned tuna, olive salad (found in the deli section) and lemon. For this and most other tuna recipes, I prefer albacore tuna packed in water, but you can use any canned tuna with good results.

A bonus is that the tuna sauce is also delicious spread on toasted rounds of French bread. So if there are fewer than four of you, go ahead and make an entire recipe of sauce. You’ll be glad you did.

Time-shaving pasta toppings

• Chopped fresh tomato, minced fresh garlic and olive oil

• Butter, Parmesan cheese, black pepper and a touch of cream

• A drained can of clams, olive oil, minced fresh garlic and parsley

• Thawed frozen green peas, strips of smoked ham and a little cream

• A splash of commercial pasta (red) sauce, a splash of cream and a splash of vodka

Menu

Pasta shells with tuna, lemon and olives

Green salad or steamed asparagus

Good bread

Lemon pie, cake or sorbet

Pasta shells with tuna, lemon and olives

The preparation time is 8 minutes, and the cooking time is 8 minutes.

Salt (optional), for cooking the pasta

8 ounces medium-size pasta shells

1 6-ounce can solid white albacore tuna, packed in water, drained

1 cup store-bought olive salad or tapenade

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons capers, drained, for garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish

Lemon wedges (optional), for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.

Add salt, if using, and stir in the pasta shells. Reduce the heat to medium-high, and cook the shells, uncovered, until al dente (firm to the bite), 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the tuna, olive salad and lemon zest and juice in a food processor or blender, and puree them until smooth, 30 seconds.

Drain the pasta shells well in a colander, shaking it a few times to remove any water that still clings to the pasta.

Return the shells to the pot. Fold in the tuna sauce, and stir to coat the pasta well. Serve at once, garnished with the capers, basil and lemon wedges, if using.

Makes 4 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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