Based on Pasta Con Le Sarde, the full-throttle Sicilian spaghetti and sardine classic, this tuna-based version is a store-cupboard gem. Like the Spanish, Sicilians like to use breadcrumbs to add savoury crunch and even call them poor man's Parmesan. This recipe will usefully clear the remains of a ciabatta loaf and use up any raisins that got away when the mince pies and puds were being made, though do stone them if they are moscatels. That's the kind of crunch your guests don't want.
Sicily has the very grape for these dark, sweet concoctions. Uncork a bottle of La Ferla Nero d'Avola Rosso, Sicilia IGT (£6.75)
- 25g raisins, soaked in 2 tablespoons of hot water, or Marsala if you have some
- 2 cans tuna in oil, drained (save a little of the oil)
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 large fennel bulb, diced
- Juice of a lemon
- 50g pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 350g spaghetti or other long pasta
- 100g ciabatta crumbs, toasted in a hot oven
Fry the onion and fennel in the oil until soft and golden. Squeeze the lemon juice and sizzle briefly. Drain the raisins and add to the pan, along with the Marsala if you used that, and if you did, simmer until the alcohol has boiled off and the liquid is reduced to a syrup. Mash the tuna with a little of its oil and add to the pan to warm through gently while the pasta is boiling. Finally add the toasted pine nuts. Cook the spaghetti until al dente and drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Pile into a large serving bowl and toss through the contents of the frying pan, along with a little of the cooking water which will help everything to come together. Serve the breadcrumbs separately to sprinkle on top. No Parmesan necessary.
Janet Wynne Evans