Tuna recipe from Italy?
February 16, 2009 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I recall eating a meal in Italy that I THINK was just rice, canned tuna, and white beans drizzled in olive oil. Is this a real "dish"? I've put those four ingredients together and it doesn't taste the same. And it's a really monochromatic meal. Anyone have any thoughts on the "real" dish, or if not, how to spice up the one I remember? It was in Parma.
posted by Ollie to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like Tonno e Fagioli
posted by jckll at 11:50 AM on February 16, 2009

White (cannellini) beans, thin slices of red onion, good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and tuna is a classic Italian dish and most delicious. Try getting the best tuna, the kind that comes in a glass jar packed in olive oil, imported from Spain or Italy. That makes a huge difference.
I haven't seen it with rice as well, seems like overload. (This recipe includes rice and chickpeas.)
(I would add parsley and capers too, if that doesn't ruin the monochromaticness for you.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:50 AM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

A friend made me something similar once, and I wrote down the recipe - it's not exactly what you describe, but it's yummy, and might help you track down the actual recipe you're looking for:

Tuna Puttanesca

1 can of tuna packed in oil
2 bunches of watercress -chop leaves, discard stems
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cups rotini cooked and cooled
3 tbsp chopped capers
salt and pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup chopped fresh basil

basically mix all of that together, and serve cold
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:52 AM on February 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Yep, classic dish. CL has it right, the tuna is key. And it is indeed made with canned tuna, but not the dry flavorless Starkist solid-white albacore crap that's only edible when drowned in mayonnaise. You want good yellowfin tuna packed in olive oil.
posted by dchase at 12:23 PM on February 16, 2009

Thanks CL. Now I've got dinner for tonight planned.
posted by Capri at 2:12 PM on February 16, 2009

The best part about that dish is, if you keep lemons and onions around and remember to have at least one can of beans and some good tuna in the cabinet, you can always have a delicious and fresh tasting meal out of the pantry at the drop of a hat.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:18 PM on February 16, 2009

Only notes on tonno e fagioli, from a local:
- hold the lemon (and definitely no rice or chickpeas!)
- try spring onions instead of any larger kind; sliced hair-thin, of course
- black pepper is a possible final addition, if you like
- prepare half-a-day in advance - let the flavours amalgamate

The secret is simply in the quality of the ingredients, especially the tuna (short of the artisanal kind, the spanish Consorcio brand's ventresca is tops) and the beans (if you can get them fresh, cannellini preferrably, and cook them just right, not to a mush, it's a whole other experience...).
posted by progosk at 4:29 PM on February 16, 2009

- riso e fagioli is traditionally more of a soupy affair
- tuna and capers (only the salted kind!) find their sublime marriage in the condiment of vitello tonnato
- puttanesca is well codified as a pasta sauce consisting of tomatoes, olives, capers and hot pepper; the above recipe would be termed more of a "puttanaio"
posted by progosk at 4:39 PM on February 16, 2009

If you don't want to hunt the ultra special tuna and pay through the nose for it, Genova Tonno is perfectly delicious, no doubt because it's also packed in olive oil. You can get it at most supermarkets but the cheapest I've found it was at Trader Joe's, for about $2.
posted by Dragonness at 6:02 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Every dish in Italy tastes better because they actually care about what the base ingredients (vegetables, pasta, fish, meat [although I was at that time a pescatarian] etc) taste like before you add anything else.

The best you can hope for is to make the dish using imported tuna packed in olive oil.

I loove garlic, so whenever I make this dish (or a variant that basically just skips the tuna altogether, so, um, basically cold white beans) I add a nice quantity of very finely minced raw garlic, say a clove or so. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil will help, and may atone for a cheaper brand of tuna. For a cheaper option you may want to try korean tuna, which you can generally get for around $2 a can. I remember it having a bit more flavor than SunKist et al.

Another perfectly reasonable approach is to abandon tuna altogether and choose a different canned fish. Smoked sardines + beans might make an interesting alternative. I also really like the new skinless-boneless salmon sold in tuna cans (and labelled "tuna style"). It looks and tastes, imo, more like albacore tuna than salmon, and of course has the benefit of not being quite so laden with mercury. It also has a nice fresh taste that might serve as a substitute if you can't get the nice imported kind.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:01 PM on February 16, 2009

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