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Whole-Wheat Penne with Oil-Cured Tuna (Penne Integrali al Tonno)

This is one of those wonderful improvised summer dishes that Italians toss together with whatever happens to be in the garden and pantry. It’s perfect for a sultry evening, when the thought of preparing a cooked sauce seems like too much work.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 cans (each 2.8 oz.) imported Italian or Spanish tuna packed in olive oil, drained and flaked
  • 2 imported Italian or Spanish anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed flat but left whole
  • 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 small fresh hot chili, minced, or a generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 lb. dried whole-wheat pasta, such as penne rigate or cavatappi
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small dice

Directions:

In a large serving bowl, combine the tomatoes, tuna, anchovies, shallots, garlic, parsley, basil and chili and stir gently to mix. Add the olive oil and vinegar and stir gently again to coat. Add a little more olive oil if the sauce seems dry. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour to allow the flavors to mingle. Remove the garlic clove just before you toss the sauce with the cooked pasta.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes, or according to the package instructions. Drain well, then transfer the hot pasta to the bowl with the sauce and stir gently to combine. Add the cheese and stir again. Drizzle in a little more olive oil to loosen the sauce a bit, if needed, and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian/i>, by Domenica Marchetti (Weldon Owen, 2011).