Ahhh, canned tuna… One of the most versatile pantry items in my opinion. We use it for salads, as sandwich filling, as spring roll filling… My daughter, Alex, even used it to make cheese-stuffed potato balls. I can’t sing enough praises for canned tuna and I’m not even a fan of canned food.
Of course, we’ve cooked tuna pasta before. We’ve come up with so many variations I’ve lost count. But the way I made it last night sets it apart from all the rest. For two reasons. Using lemon pepper seasoning is one as you may have already guessed.
The second is the liquid from the can of tuna. I used to discard that. I should never have. There’s so much tuna-ness in it and adding it to the dish enhances the lovely brininess that can only come from seafood.
So, lemon pepper seasoning and adding tuna brine take care of flavor. What about color and texture? Red tomatoes and green bell pepper give the dish a festive look (they taste good too) while mushrooms provide contrast in texture.
But all those ingredients aren’t simply tossed together. This isn’t a salad. This is tuna pasta served hot. And the actual cooking it begins by heating olive oil and butter together then sauteeing thinly sliced onion and plenty of crushed garlic in the combined oils.
When the onion slices soften and the garlic is filling your kitchen with its heady aroma, cherry tomatoes, diced bell pepper and mushrooms are added, and generously dusted with lemon pepper seasoning. Everything gets tossed together for a few minutes before capers are added.
Cooked pasta is dumped in, the brine from the can of tuna is drizzled directly over them and everything is tossed repeatedly until the noodles have soaked up the liquids in the pan and are glistening with the combination of olive oil and butter.
The canned tuna (I like to leave them in fairly large pieces) and lemon juice are stirred in. Grated Pecorino and roughly chopped parsley are tossed in, and the seasonings are adjusted before the lemon pepper tuna pasta is scooped into shallow bowls.
Full recipe below
Lemon pepper tuna pasta
- 250 grams pasta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion - peeled and thinly sliced
- 8 cloves garlic - peeled and crushed
- 12 to 18 cherry tomatoes - halved or quartered depending on their size
- 1 large green bell pepper - cored, deseeded and diced
- 200 grams fresh mushrooms - shimeji is used here but feel free to substitute your preferred variety
- 1 ½ teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning
- 2 heaping tablespoons capers - drained
- 1 can tuna chunks in brine - drained; brine reserved
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup grated Pecorino - plus more to garnish
- ¼ cup chopped parsley - plus more to garnish
- lemon wedges - to serve
- Boil water in a pot, add two tablespoons salt and cook the pasta.
- While the pasta cooks, in a shallow pan, heat the olive oil and butter.
- Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil-butter mixture until softened and aromatic.
- Add the bell pepper, tomatoes and mushrooms, and sprinkle in the lemon pepper seasoning. Cook, tossing, for about two minutes.
- Scoop out the pasta and dump into the pan.
- Drizzle the reserved tuna brine over the noodles and toss thoroughly.
- Add the tuna chunks and toss to distribute.
- Stir in the lemon juice.
- Toss in the grated Pecorino and chopped parsley.
- Taste and add more salt or lemon juice, or both, for a good balance of flavors.
- Ladle the lemon pepper tuna pasta into bowls, garnish with more grated Pecorino and chopped parsley, and serve with lemon wedges on the side.