Sicilian-Style Tuna Pasta Sauce

A while ago in Sicily I made swordfish pasta from a Mary Taylor Simeti recipe with the surprising (to me), addition of fresh chopped mint. Here, I made a version with tinned tuna and it was great. When I made it I was staying with my parents and chopped off a handful of fennel fronds from an overgrown plant to add to the sauce. Clearly, that’s not easy to find(!) (though they do grow prolifically by some roadsides in the UK, but finding that would be a bit random luck!) – so use a very finely sliced fennel bulb instead, or a teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds.  


4 cloves of garlic, sliced

4 anchovies (salted or in oil)

1/2 bulb of fennel (or a small bulb) and fronds, very thinly sliced

a pinch of chilli

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tin of tomatoes

1 small tin of tuna

a small bunch of chopped mint

100g dried pasta p/p

How to make:

Add the olive oil to a cold pan with the garlic, anchovies and pinch of chilli and place on a low heat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring until the anchovies have melted into the oil and the garlic is very lightly golden. 

Add the fennel and cook for a few minutes until it softens.

Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and 1/2 tinful of water to rinse it out. 

Simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the tin of tuna and stir into the tomato sauce, simmer for another 15 minutes. If it gets too dry, add another 1/2 tinful of water.

Season to taste with salt and a grind of pepper and turn off the heat. Stir in the fresh mint and leave it to rest for 15-20 minutes, while you boil water and cook the pasta. 

Put some well salted pasta water onto boil (roughly 1 litre of water for every 100g pasta).

Cook until al dente, leaving just a little bite. And before draining take out a cup of the water.

Add the drained pasta to the sauce and stir it/toss it well, adding a few tablespoons of cooking water every few tosses/stirs to loosen up the sauce (the pasta will absorb moisture from the sauce).

Serve with fresh grated parmesan, grana padano or pecorino.


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