Tuna and Pasta — A Tasty Combo

I like the versatility of canned tuna. It’s one of those foods that I always buy when there’s a sale at the supermarket. I can never have too many cans on the pantry shelf.

One of my favorite things to do with a can of tuna is to mix it with some Miracle Whip, put it on saltine crackers and top it with a slice or two of sweet (bread and butter) pickles. I’ve been doing this since my college days at Bemidji State. I remember coming home in the afternoon after class and having a snack of tuna, crackers and pickles while watching “The Little Rascals” or “The Three Stooges.”

Another dish that I like to make is tuna casserole. Just this past week, I made one for supper. The recipe I follow is my own creation. It calls for a couple of 7-ounce cans of tuna along with a can of cream of mushroom soup, a 4-ounce can of sliced mushrooms, a diced onion, two stalks of diced celery, a tablespoon or two of Miracle Whip and salt and pepper to taste. And, of course, some pasta.

Canned tuna and pasta is a good pairing. The following recipe combines the two. The tuna topping is chunky and colorful when combined with roasted red bell pepper. It’s tossed with nutty whole-wheat or farro pasta. The recipe is courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research (www. aicr.org).

Spaghetti with Mediterranean Tuna
1 medium red bell pepper, halved and seeded (or use jarred roasted pepper)
1 tablespoon capers, preferably salt-preserved
1 7-ounce can solid light tuna in olive oil, well-drained
1 lemon, preferably organic
½ cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti, broken into thirds, or whole-wheat corkscrew shaped pasta
If roasting pepper place rack in upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees degrees.
Line baking sheet with foil and coat foil with cooking spray. Place pepper on baking sheet cut-side down, and roast on top rack for 20 to 25 minutes, until skin blisters and is black in places. Transfer pepper halves to small bowl, cover with plate or plastic wrap, and steam for 20 minutes. When pepper is cool enough to handle, use your fingers to pull off skin.
Finely chop pepper and set aside.
Rinse capers, place in small bowl and cover with cool water. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse capers well and pat dry on paper towel. Chop capers, and set aside.
Boil large pot of water for pasta.
Place drained tuna in medium-size mixing bowl, and using a fork, flake it. Add capers, and roasted pepper. Zest lemon and set zest aside. Squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from lemon and add to tuna. Save remaining lemon for another use. Mix parsley into tuna. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour additional boiling water into large mixing bowl. Set bowl with tuna mixture into larger bowl to warm it and help flavors to meld while pasta cooks, stirring sauce occasionally. Let sit for up to 30 minutes.
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of cooking water. Divide pasta among 4 wide, shallow bowls and moisten with 2 tablespoons of cooking water. Top each serving with one-fourth of tuna mixture. Sprinkle zest over tuna, and serve.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 302 calories, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 46 grams carbohydrates,
22 grams protein, 1 gram dietary fiber, 267 milligrams sodium.