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Pasta With Preserved Tuna, Capers and Pine Nuts

Serves 4Preserved Tuna1 pound fresh tuna, cut into 1-inch dice¾ teaspoon saltZest of 1 lemon2 bay leaves1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground2 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced¼ teaspoon fennel seeds1 cup olive oilPasta1 pound penne or ziti¼ cup pine nuts1½ cups preserved tuna2 tablespoons capers {pinterest_rich_pins_images} Pasta With Preserved Tuna, Capers and Pine Nuts {/pinterest_rich_pins_images}

Pasta With Preserved Tuna, Capers and Pine Nuts

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    Pasta With Preserved Tuna, Capers and Pine Nuts
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    Preserved Tuna

Text, photos and food cooked by Michal Martinek

Oct 19, 2016

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Pasta With Preserved Tuna, Capers and Pine Nuts

Getting a big chunk of raw, fresh tuna and letting it leisurely simmer in scented olive oil is quite a revelation. It is a delicious way to cook and season the fish, let it break down, and turn it into a tender, jam-like, ready-made ingredient you can use in many creative variations: spread on bruschetta, add to salade niçoise, or toss with pasta—like in this recipe.

The original recipe comes from The Zuni Café Cookbook, by the late, great Judy Rodgers. She wasn’t opposed to using a good-quality canned tuna, but the method is slightly different: You would let the oil infuse with the aromatics first, over low heat. Then add the drained tuna, nuts and capers, and warm through. 


  1. Serves 4
  2. Preserved Tuna
  3. 1 pound fresh tuna, cut into 1-inch dice
  4. ¾ teaspoon salt
  5. Zest of 1 lemon
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  8. 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  9. 2 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
  10. ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
  11. 1 cup olive oil
  12. Pasta
  13. 1 pound penne or ziti
  14. ¼ cup pine nuts
  15. 1½ cups preserved tuna
  16. 2 tablespoons capers


Prepare the preserved tuna. In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the salt, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours. This helps tenderize the meat.


Place the tuna, lemon zest, bay leaves, chili flakes, black pepper, garlic and fennel seeds in a small saucepan, and mix. Pour in the olive oil (it should barely cover the fish). The mixture should be crowded in the saucepan to reduce oil usage.


Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over the lowest possible heat (don’t let it boil) until soft, about 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. If you’re making the pasta, set aside the required quantity; otherwise, let the tuna cool completely in the saucepan and then transfer with the oil to a container. Store, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Prepare the pasta. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain in a colander.


In a large skillet, lightly dry-toast the pine nuts, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat. Add the tuna, and stir in the capers. Add the pasta and toss to combine. Warm through. Season with salt, black pepper, and more olive oil to taste.


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