Monday, March 14, 2011

Creamy Tomato Tuna Penne Pasta and the Great "Tuna Melt Defense"

This fast and easy creamy tomato tuna penne pasta recipe is inspired by one of my favorite lunches of all time; the tuna melt with cup of creamy tomato soup combo. Not only is this diner classic a great tasting meal, it's also the basis for what I call, "The Tuna Melt Defense."

Whenever I hear chefs (usually young American ones, trained in Italy) say that you may NEVER add cheese to a pasta that contains fish or seafood, I'm forced to use this argument to defend my firm belief that sometimes it's okay to do just that.

Who can argue against the deliciousness of the perfectly made tuna melt? I don't know anyone that loves both cheese and tuna separately that doesn't enjoy this classic grilled sandwich. Throw in a cup of tomato soup and you're talking about one of the best lunches ever.

So, if this combination is culinarily acceptable at Joe's Diner (by the way, this is the same diner those chefs I was talking about in the 2nd paragraph go to eat tuna melts after a late night out), then why in the world can’t we enjoy the same basic flavor profile in a bowl of pasta? I rest my case. Enjoy!



Ingredients:
1 (6.7-oz) jar of tuna packed in olive oil
pinch of dried oregano (if not already in the oil)
3 cloves garlic
pinch of pepper flakes
1 teaspoon mashed anchovy filets or paste
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
3 cups high-quality cream of tomato soup
1/2 cup water
14.5-oz package dry penne pasta
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
2/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, more as needed

View the complete recipe

41 comments:

Healthy and Homemade said...

Freaking delish!! I should have used my tuna steaks for this! They were a little sad on their own with just asparagus.

I don't get the "no cheese with seafood" rule. I'm pretty sure I've had parmesan crusted fish many times and it's amazing. And shrimp Alfredo? Also yummy.

Yard Sales Kingdom said...

Chef John,

You always say cook the pasta a minute or two under then cook the rest in the sauce. How about cooking the pasta in the sauce in the beginning. What kind of effect would that be?

Thanks

Chef John said...

you can if you have the perfect amount of liquid, it just much trickier and this is delicious as is!

Robert said...

Thanks for including the link from the youtube video. I think it help drive more traffic to the site too, which is good for you.

Eizel said...

Chef - luv the video! Awesome production!

Darren said...

Wouldn't cooking the pasta in the sauce thicken the sauce too much? All that starch from the pasta would be released into sauce, no?

craftycreative said...

Always such a treat when you post new recipes. I have tried a few and loved each one :) Cant wait to give this a go!

Mike said...

Ughhh, this looks so good, but I don't eat fish (don't yell at me). Damn you Chef John!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

As much as I love it when wade into controversy, I have to say it's less fun when I agree with you. Nobody in their right mind would argue with this recipe(and I make a risotto with shrimp, peas, and Parmesan that's pretty nice). But if you call it a guideline, rather than a rule, the no cheese with fish thing has merit.

Chef John said...

T - Yes, if only all fundamentalists changed their laws and rules into guidelines, what a wonderfully world this would be. :-)

Chef John said...

mike, are you allergic or just crazy?

philogaia said...

This is one of a larger pattern of pasta recipes I see on this site. It has altered my overall pasta dish technique for the better. I now look at these as inspiration which is just perfect. I made a mac and cheese recently and kept the sauce thinner than usual. I then tossed it into the pot with the nearly finished pasta and added some frozen peas. In five minutes I had a bowl of the most comforting mac and cheese I've ever made. The recipes are great but the techniques are priceless. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Chef

Please add your version of Tomato soup to your (I'm sure) large stack of requests.

And since I think tomato soup is cold weather comfort food - and winter store tomatoes taste bland - it would be great if you could make sure we know how to substitute canned tomatoes

Thanks,

Anne

Lua said...

What would you use instead of cream of tomato soup? Tomato sauce?

Chef John said...

sure!

vasilis chamam said...

man i love sandwich themed dishes! I would add some breadcrumbs or croutons and finish the whole thing in a casserole under the grill for those last few minutes to add some crunch. oh, and a bit more melting cheese... thank you!!

KrisD said...

My sauce is absorbing into the pasta as we speak! I would never have thought to do this, but it tastes so good, I can't wait for it to be finally ready. I think my favorite bit might be the oregano, thanks for another great meal CJ!

KrisD said...

Whoops, tarragon isn't in the ingredients list...

Chef John said...

thanks!

Razors Edge said...

Time to stockpile tuna before the melting japanese nuclear power plant turns the ocean into a toxic dump!

Kaptain Ally said...

This looks simple and tasty, I'll try it soon :D

Anonymous said...

Hi chef! The tomato and amount to use is not listed on the ingredient list.

Chef John said...

There's no tomato in it, only the soup.

mistinguett said...

How many servings would this be?

*SpArKy* said...

So I made this last night, started eating it and thought to myself....WTF, I coulda done better with Ragu! Then it occured to me that I forgot the taragon at the end!!! Once I added some, this became one of the tastiest pasta dishes that ive had in quite some time. Thanks for the recipe!

Chef John said...

Maybe 4

Genevieve said...

This was amazingly easy and delicious. I will keep these ingredients in my pantry from now on. My boyfriend thought it was as good or better than his favorite pasta dish at a local Sicilian place he loves. Thank you for the great and easy recipe!

Mary Rose M. said...

Holy Cannoli, was this delish! And my hubby, who is pretty picky, ate 2 helpings!

I had to tweak a few things since the measurements I had were a little different from the recipe. (I couldn't find a carton of tomato soup so I bought another well-known brand of creamy tomato soup. One can was 19 ounces. 2 cans = 4 cups. Then my box of penne pasta was 16 ounces instead of 14.5.)

I didn't add any water since I wanted to see how everything cooked down after the 10 minutes. Turned out it was perfect! I poured the tomato mixture into the pasta (with dried tarragon instead of fresh) and fresh Parmesan cheese, allowed it to stand 2 minutes, stirred, covered for another minute and dag... it smelled amazing!

This is my new tuna love dish! I'm going to be sharing it with my friends and family. And I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I've never used tarragon, but what a wonderful herb! It added just the right amount of sweetness and the red pepper gave it a nice kick. Well done, Chef John! Mangia, mangia! :-)

Tiffany said...

I had some tuna packed in olive oil burning a whole in my pantry that I was stuck to find a new use for. I can hardly wait for dinner tonight to make this recipe. So clever, and it's something where I already have everything I need in my kitchen. Thank you!

philogaia said...

I've finally figured out that steaming gluten-free pasta in the sauce can have the unintended consequence of turning the pasta into glue, regardless of careful under-cooking. So a tip to GF folks: only steam the pasta in the sauce for a minute or two, no more.

Amsterdamned said...

Hello Chef John,

This my first recipe i made from your Blog. And it's a big succes here @ home. I also toke a dish to my Father (He love's Pasta and Tuna). He said that's his new Favourite Pasta dish. haha. When i told him how simple it was to make and what i put in it (tomato cream soup) he had to laugh real loud. I saw some more nice recipe's i want to try soon. Thank you and keep up the good work ;-)

Best wishes from Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Anonymous said...

I made this tonight and it tasted like restaurant quality pasta. I did not have tarragon so I put in a little extra oregano, some mushrooms and a squeeze of Laura Santini's #5 Umami Paste. It came out amazing! Thanks for the recipe.

tanyac230 said...

Hi Chef John,

I'm Ukrainian girl that worked more than 2 years in Italy, Tuscany. I wanna admit that yours Italian dishes look BUONISSIMO !!! Bravo Chef John, ma è bravo davvero!

Anonymous said...

usually your cooking is quality but on this dish you lost me even before the cheese was added...

it just looked like cheap&panic put everything you can find in a pan and cook...

i followed the link to the blog where i learned you describe this abomination as diner food.

now it all makes sense.

UnderChelsea12 said...

Hi!
How many servings can this recipe make? Thanks a lot! :)

Chef John said...

about 4!

Haan said...

Hi. I tried this before and god it tasted good. Now I'm going to serve this in tomorrow nights dinner with my family! You say this serves 4? How big is a serving?

Chef John said...

Enough for 4, but not huge portions. No leftovers for sure.

Marco Law said...

It would be great if in every recipe, you can leave a serving portion size? As a single guy that likes to cook, I sure don't want to make too much and have leftovers!

mdb139 said...

As it happened I had two cups of creamy tomato soup in the fridge (left over from your excellent spicy shrimp bisque) so I decided to make this tonight for my wife and me. I really enjoyed it -- kind of a poor man's pasta di mare. Not a bad dinner for fifteen minutes of effort a few dollars-worth of panty items.

Full disclosure: My wife didn't care for the combination of tomato and tuna, but I thought she was crazy. I guess if you like tuna melts with tomato soup this would appeal to you (as it did to me).

Thanks for another great recipe Chef John!

jagdish said...

This looks simple and tasty, I'll try it soon...Tuna Pasta