Who doesn’t like spaghetti in one form or another? Like all of its pasta brethren, of all shapes and sizes, from numerous cultures in addition to the Italian, spaghetti is the most simple and versatile of comfort foods. Throw together a sauce while the pasta cooks, and in about 20 minutes you have a big potful of something delicious. Some sauces take hours, true, gently bubbling on the stove as the sun lazily arcs through the sky. I save that sort of cooking for the weekends. Most days, we want to make dinner quickly, something easy and tasty that can be thrown together with little forethought or preparation. A dish that readily can be prepared from whatever disparate ingredients happen to populate the cupboards.
This is our most recent spaghetti concoction. A quick search of the fridge and pantry yielded the ingredients, including to my surprise the cans of tuna. I haven’t used canned tuna for years, yet there they were, lurking at the back of a shelf, behind a box of kosher salt and tubes of anchovy paste and harissa. What the heck. We never waste anything, might as well include the unexpected fish. Paulo crushed garlic and sliced mushrooms, I sauteed everything into a fragrant jumble, and in no time we were scooping the finished spaghetti onto our plates.
But this post isn’t so much about one particular recipe, delicious though it may be, as it is about the potential waiting within your kitchen. Pick out a few favorite ingredients from the fridge and pantry, chop them into roughly bite size pieces, saute them in olive oil while the pasta is cooking, then throw everything together with a toss and a stir, adding a little more oil, and perhaps some Parmesan cheese, if you have it. Doesn’t have to be one whit more complicated. Go ahead and give it a try. I look forward to hearing about the crazy concoctions you devise.
Spaghetti with Tuna, Mushrooms, and Olives
1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
5 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes (preferably Aleppo)
3/4 lb white or cremini mushrooms, halved if smaller, thickly sliced if larger
2 5oz cans tuna packed in oil, drained
1/3 cup slivered almonds
zest of 1 large lemon
1 cup black olives, halved lengthwise
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and stir in the spaghetti. As soon as the spaghetti hits the water, begin the sauce. Heat 3 T oil in a wide saute pan over fairly high heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and saute, stirring constantly, until they are just cooked through, 3 minutes or so. (You want them to brown quickly, rather than release their liquid and become soggy.) Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt over top, toss to incorporate, then stir in the tuna, almonds, and zest. Heat through.
When the spaghetti is al dente (or cooked to your taste), drain it and return it to its pot. Toss the sauce into the pasta, along with the olives. Drizzle in 2 T oil and toss again. Season with black pepper, and with additional salt if needed. Add the parsley and toss a last time. Serve with Parmesan cheese, if you wish.