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Rigatoni with Tuna Conserva

Chef Michael Fiorelli cooks up a savory Italian dish!
Rigatoni with Tuna Conserva
Main Ingredients:
  • 2 cups best quality dry rigatoni 
  • 1 cup basic tomato sauce (recipe follows; can substitute a high-quality oil-packed albacore tuna)
  • 2 Tablespoons green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup tuna conserva (recipe follows)
  • 1 tablespoon fried capers (procedure follows)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs (recipe follows) 
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh black pepper 
Ingredients for the Tuna Conserva:
  • 3 sliced garlic cloves
  • 2 sliced shallots 
  • 1/2 bunch basil
  • Peel of 1 lemon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound albacore tuna, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 cups olive oil (or as needed)
Ingredients for Basic Tomato Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves sliced thin
  • ½  Spanish onion finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil + stems
  • 1 medium carrot box grated or shredded in a food processor
  • 1- 28 ounce can san marzano tomatoes with juice
Ingredients for Capers:
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
Ingredients for fresh breadcrumbs:
  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread
  • 1 ½ cups olive oil
  • Kosher salt


Directions for the tuna conserva:


  1. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and shallots, reduce heat, and "sweat" until soft and translucent, approximately 5 minutes.

  2. Add the basil, lemon peel and bay leaf and warm to release aromatics. Add the salt and red pepper flakes, and stir to incorporate. Finally, add the albacore and mix everything together.

  3. Cover completely with extra virgin olive oil. Slowly heat oil to just under a simmer, and cook at a low temperature (so as not to burn the fish) until the albacore is just cooked through, approximately 20 minutes.

  4. The slower you cook the albacore, the more flavor it will absorb. Once done, remove from the heat and let cool at room temperature.

Directions for the tomato sauce:


  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onion and "sweat" over medium heat until soft and translucent.

  2. Add the sliced garlic, and do the same, stirring constantly so it doesn't brown. Add the basil stems and the carrot and cook until the carrot is very soft.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes, crushing the whole ones by hand. Simmer on low until reduced by a fourth, about 45 minutes to an hour.

  4. Remove the basil stems, pass through a strainer and then finish with salt and chopped basil. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Directions for fried capers:


  1. In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup of vegetable oil until it starts to simmer.

  2. Add the capers and fry until they begin to pop.

  3. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

Directions for breadcrumbs:


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Cut the crust off of the bread.

  2. Cut bread into one-inch cubes and toss liberally with olive oil. Spread evenly on a sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until deep golden brown.

  3. Check frequently and set a timer. Pulse toasted bread in a food processor adding a pinch of kosher salt.

To plate:


  1. Cook the rigatoni according to the package instructions, but cook for one minute less to allow time for the pasta to finish in the sauce.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, bring the tomato sauce to a light simmer.

  3. Add the albacore to heat through just slightly, as well as the olive so the briny flavor seasons the sauce. Add the rigatoni and allow to finish cooking for one minute.

  4. Check for seasoning and adjust with sea salt and fresh black pepper if necessary.

  5. Divide into equal portions among four warm plates.

  6. Sprinkle each generously with fresh breadcrumbs and the fried capers.


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