Albacore tuna is one of the world’s most highly prized fish. It flourishes in temperate and tropical oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea. Canned albacore is one of the iconic pantry staples worldwide.
It’s the star ingredient in France’s famed Salade Niçoise. It accompanies students and parents alike in lunch bags as tuna salad sandwiches. Dieters lunch on it straight from a freshly opened can.
In Oregon, fishing for albacore tuna is a serious business from commercial fleets, canneries, to deep sea charters. Tuna charters currently cost as much as $250 a day because of the distance from the coast to the running fish, and is an all-day outing.
Deep sea fishing charter businesses, such as Dockside Charters in Depoe Bay, offer cleaning, filleting, and vacuum-packing services to preserve the freshness of your catch. If a tuna fishing adventure isn’t for you, let your tuna come to you. Numerous retail seafood shops along the coast offer beautiful tenderloins of fresh albacore in season, usually mid- to late summer.
Upon arriving to Oregon, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that many Pacific Northwest locals can their own tuna just as much of the rest of the world cans tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and whatever else can be preserved in a sealed jar and processed in a hot water bath.
Late last summer I joined newly transplanted Oregonians Beth and Graham Rankin to spend an afternoon canning tuna. Tina Schneider of Incredible Edibles joined us as our canning mentor. After all was said and done, I came home with 12 half pints of beautifully canned jars of albacore tuna packed in olive oil. I will publish a more detailed post of that adventure later.
In the world of canned tuna there’s much more than Starkist or Bumble Bee. Water-packed tuna was all the rage a few decades ago for those eating on the lean side, but oil-packed, especially olive oil-packed, is the best choice for ultimate flavor – even if you just eat it out of the can with a fork. A multitude of tuna salads can reach ethereal heights if made with high-quality tuna, and our home-canned fish will provide the backbone for this chunky, no-cook pasta sauce.
Pasta Shells with Tuna, Capers, Lemon, Olives and Tomatoes
Adapted from a recipe on www.epicurious.com
- 8-10 ounces olive oil-packed tuna, drained
- Zest of one medium lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
- ½ pint pitted Kalamata olives, halved
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained or rinsed if salt-packed
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste, plus 1 tablespoon for pasta water
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- ¾ pound pasta shells or pasta shape of your choice
- Handful chopped fresh parsley for garnish
- 1 hard-boiled egg, grated for garnish
- Freshly grated Parmesan on the side
- Place the drained tuna in a large heat-proof bowl and break apart into bite-size pieces with a fork.
- Add the lemon zest, juice, tomatoes, olives, garlic, capers, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Toss well to combine.
- Warm the ingredients gently by placing the heat-proof bowl over the pasta water as it heats.
- When the water comes to a boil, remove the bowl and add about 1 tablespoon of salt to the water.
- Cook the pasta in the water until al dente.
- Drain the pasta and add to the bowl and toss to combine.
- Remove to a serving dish and garnish with the parsley and grated hard-boiled egg.
- Serve the Parmesan on the side.*
* Serious Italians would never think of combining Parmesan with fish, but hey, we’re in the New World and as Cole Porter wrote – “Anything Goes!”