1/3 cup fresh onion, finely chopped
2 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp salt packed capers, rinsed or 1 Tbsp pickled capers, drained
1 tsp preserved lemon peel, minced
2 Tbsp pickled biquinho peppers* (if you can't find these feel free to sub any mild pickled pepper)
1 small can of olive oil-packed tuna, drained
1/2 pound dry pasta (fettuccine, bucatini, etc.)
Optional, 2 tsp unsalted butter
Start heating 4 quarts of water and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt (use 3 tablespoons if using a light and flaky kosher salt) in a large covered pot. Optionally add a dried bay leaf.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the onion, cooking for 3-4 minutes (until soft and translucent). Add the anchovies, minced garlic, and tomato paste, and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring until well combined and fragrant. You can add a small splash of water if it clumps up on you.
Add the tomatoes, chili flakes, Riviera Herbs, capers, lemon peel, biquinho peppers, and tuna and bring the sauce to a simmer. Give everything a gentle stir and adjust your heat as necessary to maintain a simmer.
By now your water should be boiling. Go ahead and add your pasta and stir well.
By the time your pasta is done cooking the sauce should be nicely thickened. Drain the pasta (discarding the bay leaf if you added one), reserving a cup of pasta water.
At this point, optionally stir 2 tsp of butter into the sauce, it will thicken it lightly and give it a great texture. It's especially great with the tuna, peppers, and lemon.
Add the pasta to the sauce and stir well to coat, thinning the sauce if necessary with a bit of pasta water.
* biquinho peppers are a mild pepper native to Peru that have a little beak (hence the name), that are common in Brazilian cooking as well (any store which carries Brazilian pantry items should have them as a pickle). They provide a burst of acidity and sweetness when you bite into them.
Variations & Ideas
• You can easily omit the fish and make it vegan. Replace the anchovy with 1 teaspoon of red miso, and replace the lemon peel, biquinho peppers, and tuna with 1/4 cup of chopped pitted olives and a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley (this keeps the salt and bitterness in balance, you can sub in some pickled peppers and lemon as you prefer) or 1/4 cup of Brinjal Caponata. Omit the butter, but optionally add a bit of olive oil to finish if you like.
• This recipe is a great way to use leftover bagna cauda (which also saves some time and prep work). Sub 2 tablespoons bagna cauda for the olive oil, anchovy, and garlic. Cook the onions in it and proceed from there. You can even save a bit more time by using a good pasta sauce in place of the onions, tomato paste, and tomatoes.
• Try making the sauce (omit the tuna), adding stock, then cooked pasta or beans, serving it as a soup. Sounds strange but it is delightful. Garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley and a bit of sour cream if you like.
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