A tin of tuna, jar of pesto and some dried pasta is a meal that has fed many a student, unemployed person or someone on a budget for a good long while, myself included. It is still my go to meal when in a hurry and I have not got much in the cupboards, and I also tend to whip this up for a midweek, post work snack whenever I am racing in the evening. As a basic meal it has got it all and the winning combination of tuna and pesto never fails, with the pasta adding the substance to ensure the diner will not be going hungry for a good while. I was inducted into the fan club of this combo by my friend James who described the tinned version of this meal the Asda version, he referred to the plate of food that I am writing about now as the Waitrose version which was nice of him.
I cannot remember the number of times I have eaten this plate of food, however I was aware that I had never done anything more than the basic dish outlined above. Then one day the thought hit me, I wonder what this would be like if made properly using good ingredients. Such a simple idea but one that I had not had previously or something I had seen served anywhere else. I’d never even made my own pesto until I made this, which is probably evident from the pesto that I ended up with. Like most people I did have a basic idea of how to make pesto and everything that goes into it, and so on our Friday trip to the supermarket I picked up the required pine nuts, basil, and garlic. It was at this point I made a slight deviation from the traditional method and instead of picking up some good quality extra virgin olive oil I went for some rapeseed instead. Now I know any Italians or traditionalists among you may well be disgusted by this but bear with me, it gets worse for you later. For the pasta I decided on some from the Sainsbury’s fresh pasta range in the gemelli style as I liked the rustic look of the shape. Finally the most important part, the tuna which I picked up from my local Waitrose (how fitting James’ comment was). For the wine we picked up a bottle of Sainsbury’s taste the different Pinot Grigio, it’s white and Italian so seemed fitting.
The actual cooking involved in this dish was laughably simple, all in all in took about 20 minutes or so with the pesto taking up most of the time. For the pesto I toasted the pine nuts in a frying pan with a little oil (next time I will not use the oil I reckon) and ground in a pestle and mortar with a couple cloves of garlic and a little salt to help break everything up. I then added some rapeseed oil to loosen it all up before gradually adding the chopped basil and more oil until I got the the desired consistency and quantity. At this stage I stirred in some grated parmesan and seasoned to taste and see what I had come up with. What I had come up with was something that resembled a pesto or sorts but with more of a nutty flavour than I am used to, I think I used too many nuts and the oil also added to this flavour. I felt that my pesto need something more, something to cut through all of this and make it more zingy and the solution that I employed was to add some chopped anchovies, some lemon juice would have worked as well. I’ve no idea whether this is an acceptable addition, but it definitely added what I was seeking to the overall flavour. The rest was all standard, cook the pasta and drain and sear the tuna in a hot frying pan. Once the tuna has been removed from the pan add the pasta with the pesto and heat through, coating the pasta as you go, before plating up.
I have to say that I was really pleased with the outcome of this experiment and it certainly lived up to my expectations. The classic combination of flavours was there but so much better than before, not much beats a seared tuna steak. The pesto and pasta was delicious with a drizzle of black truffle oil over the top and it all looked pretty fantastic, even if I do say so myself. This is the sort of dish that I really enjoy as it was so simple to make and looked great on the plate without any effort in making it do so and it all took about 20 minutes to put together.
Please feel free to leave me any comments you may have, or if you give this a try and want to tell me what you think of it.