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Pasta with Tuna and Bread Crumbs (Pasta con Tonno e Briciole)

Many southern Italian pastas are topped with toasted bread crumbs, a custom that probably dates to a time when cheese was too costly for many of the locals to afford. The crumbs add a pleasing crunch and rich, toasty flavor to vegetable and fish sauces. In some recipes, the crumbs are first sautéed with olive oil and mashed anchovies for a salty tang and extra flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small dried red chili, crushed, or pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 can (7 oz.) tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lb. linguine or spaghetti
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup toasted fine bread crumbs

Directions:

In a fry pan large enough to hold the cooked pasta and the sauce, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chili and cook until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Stir in the tuna and parsley and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente. Drain, reserving a ladleful of the cooking water.

Add the drained pasta to the sauce and stir and toss well over medium heat, adding some of the cooking water if the sauce is too dry. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl, sprinkle with the bread crumbs and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Italy, by Michele Scicolone (Time-Life Books, 1999).