Monday, October 8, 2012

Mario Batali's Ziti with Tuna and Salami

         I love pasta and I am always on the lookout for a new and different way to prepare it.   There are sauces that require hours on the stove and that are best made in huge batches. “Bolognese” falls into that camp. Whatever the recipe, there is something so entirely comforting about a pot of “Sunday gravy”, which is what many New York Italians still call their grandmother’s spaghetti sauce.  Stewing away on the stove all day, it requires an occasional stir and multiple tastings and sends out aromas that perfume the air with oregano, tomatoes and basil.  When it finally makes its way to the table, the anticipation has been cooking right along with it all day.  There’s inevitably enough left over to freeze or simply hide away in the fridge for a weeknight second helping. 
      Then there are the sauces that come together quickly enough to make a perfect weeknight dinner.  There are quite a few of these if you look under Pasta in our recipe list.  We lean heavily on the classics –Carbonara, Linguine with Clam Sauce, Linguine with Lemon Garlic Shrimp (better known as Shrimp Scampi).  But when I found this recipe from the incomparable Mario Batali, I’d never heard of any pasta dish like it.  And this is from someone who lived in Italy.   It’s from the Chef’s “Simple Family Meals”  (Harper Collins 2011).  Once I made it, I loved it. The dish blends the taste of very high-end canned tuna with the spicy counterplay of salami and red pepper flakes all wrapped up in a simple onion-y tomato sauce.  Extra points go to the ease with which you can make it.  It’s one of those under 30 minute wonders which deliver far more taste than their cooking time would indicate.   But I was still puzzled that I’d never heard of anything like it.  So I went to to see if I could find the roots of Chef Batali’s creation.

Tonno Salami.
Looks like Scrapple to me
   I found something called “Tonno Salame”.        
But it turns out that it’s a method of turning canned tuna into a ‘log’, which is then sliced like salami.  The resulting “Tonno Salame” is sometimes then made into a topping for boiled potatoes.  As I probed a little deeper, I came across a recipe for Spaghetti with Tonno e Salame. Written by a woman named Marina Rubino, it appeared on an Italian site called  Similar to the aggregators of recipes in this country, ‘kitchen recipes’ as it is translated, has dozens of contributors like Ms. Rubino.  But Ms. Rubino appears to be an original. The comment left by one reader translates to “With all the recipes that you publish, I am coming to think that you are a brave cook” Well, she actually wrote “Brava cuoca ” which is closer to “good cook”.  Her recipe however veered sharply away from Mario Batali’s. It used chucks of dried salami, cherry tomatoes and canned tuna. And they remained individual ingredients when they came together. Chef Batali’s version, as you can see, is a blending of all the ingredients to create a sauce that is simultaneously spicy from the salami, sweet from the tomatoes and full of body from the tuna.  He too must be complemented for being an original. “Uno Bravo Cuoco” as we say in Italian. I wonder how this would taste with plain old American tuna in oil. It sure would be worth a try. Here’s the recipe:

Mario Batali’s Ziti with Tuna and Salami
Makes 6 servings (Since I like lots of sauce, I halved this for two and cooked 4 oz. of pasta for each serving.)
4 oz. of Salami
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil  
2 small red onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. hot red pepper flakes
2 cups or 16 oz of tomato sauce
2- 6 0z. cans of high quality Italian, Spanish or Portuguese Tuna in Oil
2 tbsp. Kosher salt
1 ½ lbs of Ziti
6 scallions, white and green parts separated.

 Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot.
 Cut the salami into thin julienne. Heat the oil in a 14-inch sauté pan
         over medium heat. Add the salami and onions, and cook until the
         onions have softened, about 7 minutes. 

         3. Add the red pepper flakes and the tomato sauce, and bring to a boil. Then remove from the heat and
         stir in the tuna. Set aside.

 Add the salt to the boiling water. Drop the ziti into the water and
cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate. Just
before it is done, carefully ladle ¼ cup of the cooking water in the
tuna mixture.        
 Drain the pasta in a colander and add it to the sauce. Toss over
         medium heat for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely
         coated. Add the scallions and toss again. Pour into a warmed serving
         bowl and serve immediately.


  1. My Italian mother in law makes a delicious bow tie pasta dish with tonno, tomato sauce and artichokes as well, that calls for some pancetta and butter to start. A very unique and flavorful dish from Puglia.

    I would not waste my time with american canned tuna.

    1. You are certainly among the fortunate -- to have an Italian Mother-in-law! That sounds wonderful! I will take your advice about the American Canned Tuna. The Portuguese brand I bought (pictured) was delicious and well worth the extra money. All best, Monte

  2. When Valery asks "Can you make this again tomorrow?", I know we have a winner. This was simply delicious and as promised, so very easy to make. I used a spicy Italian tuna packed in oil, and sauteed the onions and salami in that oil instead of olive. This gave the dish a boost of heat! I would not do this again if serving for guests with a lower heat tolerance than mine however we quite enjoyed it!

    1. So glad you liked this recipe! I thought is was very unique. I love the idea of sauteeing the salami and onions in the tuna's olive oil. Brilliant! Will try that myself next time I make this!