Tuna sauce with tomato, mint and cinnamon


This dish came about in a haze of Campari and music-enhanced melancholy and brings two recipes into dialogue from Mary Taylor Simeti’s book Sicilian Food: Recipes from Italy’s Abundant Isle – as well as what I had available at home. The cinnamon in the sauce was a revelation, giving a roundness and a depth and a sweetness that was quite transporting.


4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tin whole plum tomatoes
a small bunch of mint, leaves roughly chopped and a few small sprigs left for the end
1 small stick cinnamon
1 small tin of tuna in oil (my tin was 82g drained weight)
200g pasta (100g p/p)

How to make

Put the oil in a pan large enough for the sauce and the pasta, on a low heat. Add the garlic cloves and fry in the oil until golden brown. Then add the tomatoes and break them up with a spoon in the pan. Then add the mint and the cinnamon stick, a good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper and shake the pan. Cook on a low-medium heat, gently bubbling for 5-6 minutes. Then add the tin of tuna with its oil and gently break up the pieces in the sauce. Shake the pan again and leave to cook for 15-20 minutes on a low heat, gently bubbling.

While the sauce is cooking, boil a large pan of water (c. 2 litres) and add 1 tablespoon of salt (while the sauce was cooking, I boiled celery and lemon skin in the water for this salad).

When the sauce is ready, leave it to rest for a few minutes and cook the pasta (I had bucatini on this occasion). When the pasta is just al dente, extract a cup of cooking water and drain. Throw the sprigs of mint in the sauce and then add the pasta with a few tablespoons of reserved cooking water and toss thoroughly, using your wooden spoon to help coat the pasta with the sauce. Adding more tablespoons of reserved water if too dry. Serve immediately. Add parmesan if desired.


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