Sicilian Penne With Tuna, Cherry Tomatoes and Capers

From Vienna to Pantelleria in one dish.

Every summer it is the same: no one wants to turn on the oven and cook big batches of roast (but we did a summer version though) or stew for a long time as the kitchen is already too hot. My mum used to make so called “insalata di pasta” (=pasta salad) in Milan, where the kitchen periodically hit over 38°C starting with the mid of June. It is a cold version of a pasta with mainly cold ingredients for the sauce, like cherry tomatoes, olives, roasted aubergine in the jar, mozzarella and so on. No need to say that the original version had nearly zero gram protein, besides the protein content of the pasta, and some spare cheese. That’s why we think the idea by Jamie Oliver of adding tuna to the pasta is genious and we did our own version.

You can find the recipe by Jamie Oliver here or in his Five Ingredients book, which I do really recommend for all of you who would like to start cooking and do not know where to start. There are enough dishes with a serious amount of protein too, especially in the meat and fish chapters, and they are really beginner friendly!

This recipe is also super easy and you can vary it in so many ways. Starting with the main ingredient “penne”, you can of course use whatever shape of pasta you love most. Even if we Italian love to make rocket science out of which pasta shape belongs to which sauce, I do not think it is necessary. Personally, I prefer a short pasta form for this kind of sauce, like conchiglie, fusilli, penne, maccheroni or similar, but feel free to try whatever you like. There are also a lot of gluten-free versions if you need to or different grains and even pasta made out of legumes or why not try making an insalata di riso (=rice salad) with a similar sauce?

Tuna is a great, fairly lean source of protein and in combination with capers, cherry tomatoes and oregano it screams Pantelleria, a small island south of Sicily, also called figlia del vento – daughter of the wind. Create your own favorite summer destination by trying salmon, roasted melanzani and basil or chicken, olives and rosmary or makarel, dill and zucchini. You can add dryed tomatoes, you can add feta or mozzarella or even boiled eggs… There are endless combinations possible. But now let’s get started with our Sicilian penne.

Ingredients

  • 300g penne rigate (or other short pasta)
  • 420g tuna filets (in glas jar – in brine, not oil)
  • 6o0g cherry tomatoes
  • 15ml olive oil
  • 4 heaped teaspoons salted baby capers
  • 1-3 clove(s) of garlic
  • basil, oregano, salt, pepper, chili flakes (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prepare the pasta according to the instructions. In our case we boiled 1,7 liter of water, salted it and left the penne cooking in the boiling water for approx. 12 minutes.
  2. In the mean time, mince the garlic and cut the cherry tomatoes in halfes. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic first, then add the chili flakes (optional) and the baby cappers. Keep an eye on the garlic, it must not burn!
  3. When the pasta is almost ready add the tuna and the cherry tomatoes to the pan and season with oregano, pepper and salt if necessary. Eventually use some pasta cooking water to make the sauce creamier.
  4. Drain the pasta and pour it in the pan with the sauce. Mix well.
  5. Serve the pasta hot or at room temperature and garnish with basil. You can even store it in the fridge for 3-4 days and therefore cook it in advance.

Macros

Makes 3 portions of sicilian penne with following macros:

  • 628kcal
  • 49,1g protein
  • 76,4g carbs
  • 12,7g fat

The macros are just perfect: a lot of protein, a nice amount of carbs, not too much fat. If you are deep into contest prep and in my weight/height class (160cm, probably under 50kg stage weight) it would not probably fit but most of you are not 😉 And as previously said, there are endless modifications possible so that you can adapt the recipe to your needs and taste. Be sure to share your ideas and experiments with us in the comments below. We are looking forward to it!

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