Quick and Easy Italian
Penne with Tuna Puttanesca Sauce
Published: Thursday, February 24, 2011
Updated: Sunday, February 27, 2011 19:02
We have all heard that salmon is good for you—omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein source, the list goes on—but it's hard to catch fish on campus. However, salmon's trusty sidekick, canned albacore tuna, is at the salad bar once every few days. In this dish, I combined this lean source of protein with a tangy puttanesca-style tomato sauce and whole grain penne for a well-balanced meal.
Omega-3s, such as those found in tuna fish, can lower bad cholesterol, control hypertension, prevent cancer and promote heart health. According to "Superfoods Rx" (my food Bible), recent studies have shown the power of salmon and tuna in promoting better mental health: 815 Chicago residents over the age of 65, who ate fish at least once a week, had a 60 percent lower risk for developing Alzheimer's disease compared with those who never or rarely ate fish.
Tuna is also a major source of vitamin D, which is currently the object of a lot of hype from nutritionists, as a large percent of the adult population is deficient in it. In fact, only 20 to 40 percent of young women typically get the recommended daily dose of vitamin D (200-600 IU) from diet alone—another reason to eat more tuna!
According to actor Joe Pantoliano— Ralph Cifaretto on The Sopranos—who shared his puttanesca recipe on Martha Stewart's show in 2007, "Puttanesca means 15 minutes and if you're Italian and from New Jersey, you know what else puttana means…" Literally translated from Italian it means "whore's pasta." It is believed the pasta dish derived its name from the fact that it was a quick, cheap meal for "ladies of the night" to prepare between customers (anonymous source).
Pantoliano, the mobster-turned-chef, created the Pèpe & Pants pasta sauce line with childhood friend Rich Pèpe. Together they have introduced a line of sauces using family recipes from their grandparents who emigrated from Southern Italy. But, as he announced on Martha's show, he suffers from high cholesterol, so this recipe is a less salty version than the original, which gets its high sodium count from the signature anchovies and capers.
Because this pasta dish is traditionally made from "whatever was left in the larder," our salad bar supplies all you might need for this sauce. Olives, artichoke hearts, carrots, celery, mushrooms, etc. can almost always be found on a rotating schedule in our dining halls. While anchovies and capers may not be readily available at the salad bar, they only serve as the salt-base for the recipe and are really unnecessary, due to the already salty marinara sauce in the dining hall.
The key to cooking up this dish in the dining hall was sautéing the vegetables, oregano and red pepper flakes in olive oil and water in the microwave before adding the tuna and marinara sauce. The vegetables not only softened, but also absorbed the flavor of the herbs and spices. I then added the tuna, olives and marinara sauce, mixed well and served atop penne pasta and finished off with Parmesan.
Penne-with-Tuna in puttanesca sauce is a great way to get more whole grains and fish into your dining hall diet, and as its name implies, it's sure to be a quickie!
-1 tsp. olive oil
-1/2 cup baby carrots, sliced
-1/4 cup mushrooms, chopped
-1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (hot!)
-1/2 tsp. oregano (from the rotating spice rack)
-1/2 cup marinara tomato sauce
-1/2 cup tuna
-1 Tbsp. black olives, sliced
-3/4 cup penne pasta (whole grain, preferably)
-1 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese (from the salad bar)
In a small bowl, combine olive oil, sliced carrots, chopped mushrooms, oregano and red pepper flakes (other good vegetables to add: celery, artichoke hearts, peas). Add a splash of hot water, stir and then microwave for one minute, or until the vegetables are tender. Mix in the tuna, black olives, marinara tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. Serve over penne pasta with a side of green vegetables. Buon appetito!