No clams? No problem!

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How to make a great pasta sauce in 30 minutes

In my wife’s region in Italy—San Marino and Romagna—you’re likely to find pasta served with tuna sauce. Wait, let me revise that statement. In my mother-in-law’s kitchen, and in the kitchen of my wife’s old aunt over there, you would be very likely to find pasta served with tuna sauce–like the local spaghetti with clams, only tuna. And red.  It is crazy delicious. Where we live, in the US Midwest, you don’t find clams. Well, they’re there. But if you’re picky about clams, you’ll picture a “do not touch” sign, in neon, close by. Tuna, on the other hand, is available.

This is a relatively fast food, incredibly simple, and really tasty, provided you have a good tuna. You’ll want tuna packed in olive oil. We find the Genova tuna at local Italian stores and some grocery stores. Rio Mare is another good one.

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Today I sauteed half a tennis-ball size onion. For good measure, I tossed in a small shallott, too. Both sliced thin, gently cooked in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Then, tuna, the 3 1/2 ounce can. If there’s a lot of oil, you might drain off a little. (I opened a can of Rio in Italy a few months ago. The can ranneth over. The Genova today was not over oily, so I didn’t drain it.) I pass a paring knife through the tightly packed tuna, just to break it up a bit, then add it to the onion saute, mashing the tuna a little more. Add a cup of tomato puree, a splash of water, another tablespoon or two of oil, cover and cook 30 minutes. Stir it a little. Add salt and pepper. I like my sauce a little fine black peppery.

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This sauce cooked in one of my little coccio crocks. Find one if you can. Anything cooking in coccio smells of your good ingredients and of the clay pot. Intoxicating.

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All right, I said spaghetti with tuna sauce above. Today I mixed the sauce with 3/4 cup of cooked brown rice.

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Not risotto. Rice with tuna sauce. This is a dish that makes life worth living.

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