A huge thank you to Loblaws for inviting me to the “From Italy with Amore” event and for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own and I only work with brands that are in line with my values.
One thing I remember vividly from an Italian cooking class I took many years ago is that the quality of ingredients matters. I can often make something out of “nothing” and truly relish the experience of taking scraps–bones, ends of vegetables, rinds of cheese, etc.–and turning them into a meal, quality not carrying much weight. In these ventures, it’s the sum of the rough and broken parts that matters. Italian food is made so simply, though, that every bite reflects the flavour, texture, and subtle aroma of each individual ingredient and their intimate connection to one another.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend an Italian cooking event hosted by Loblaws, where the focus was on showcasing authentic, quality ingredients sourced directly from Italy. I knew it was the real deal when I walked in and saw trays of glorious DOP cheeses, fruity, peppery olive oils, sweet balsamic vinegars, and authentic pastas on display for sampling. Guided by Chef Massimo Bruno, it was with those incredible ingredients that we cooked a meal together. As part of the menu we helped to prepare, we even successfully made our own hand-rolled pasta. One of the recipes that left an impression on me was the lemon tuna pasta. It was a simple mixture of tuna in olive oil, several generous glugs of quality olive oil, fresh, tangy lemon juice and its zest, and a couple of leaves (literally a couple) of torn basil. Tossed into freshly made pasta (with a bit of the pasta water to help it come together) it was, in a word, exquisite. Four simple ingredients revealed a harmonious balance of freshness, tanginess, saltiness, and full-bodiedness that partnered nicely with the toothsome bite of the pasta. For my take on this recipe, I opted for creamy cannellini beans in place of the pasta. Pasta is encouraged, if you prefer it. This just provides you a simple, protein-packed option.
Growing up in the era of the low-fat fad, I’d always opted for tuna in water. And despite having a completely celebratory approach to fats in my diet now, I’d never made the change to tuna in olive oil. After tasting this tuna, I’m honestly not sure why! Rounded out with a bit more extra-virgin olive oil, it really forms the base of this pasta dish. (Note to the skeptics: If you’re also from the low-fat diet era and are starting to tune this post out, I beg you to consider including olive oil in your diet. If there’s one piece of advice that I have taken with me from my time in naturopathic school–besides eating more vegetables than you think you need–, it’s to incorporate raw olive oil into your diet. Olive oil is used therapeutically in naturopathic medicine and provides many significant health benefits too numerous to list. But the best thing, is that good olive oil tastes like angels dancing on your tongue!! So it’s not a hard sell, right?) With this particular dish, you’ll want to use a better quality olive oil because you really will taste the difference. Loblaws is now sourcing Rio Mare tuna in olive oil as well as Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from Tuscany, so you can find it right on store shelves. I really hope you’ll give it a shot. It’s a lovely, tasty, simple dish that I’m sure you’ll feel great about eating.
Tuna, Lemon, and Olive Oil Cannellini Beans (print recipe here)
Serves: 2 (but is easily multiplied)
Notes: Use the best quality olive oil that you can get. The taste matters. Feel free to swap out the beans for pasta here. Reserve some of the pasta water to help lubricate the noodles and season to taste with extra salt, pepper, lemon, and olive oil. Also, 2-3 leaves of torn basil also make a lovely addition.
1 80g can, tuna in olive oil
2 tbsp best quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
Zest of one small lemon and juice of half the lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 540mL can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Arugula microgreens, for serving
Empty the can of tuna into a medium bowl, add in the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and a generous pinch of salt and small pinch of pepper. With a fork, mash everything together. Add the beans and stir to combine. Season with more salt, pepper, and lemon juice, if needed. Just before serving toss with a handful or two of arugula microgreens. Enjoy!