Sicilian Standby: Anna’s Pasta Sauce

March 14, 2010

I have a Sicilian friend, Anna, from Catania. Many moons ago, before she married (a chef! che bella fortuna) and had her cherubic child, she stayed with us for a week in New Mexico. At that time I was pretty clueless about Italians. I didn’t realize that they must, absolutely must, eat pasta every single day.

On about the third, maybe the second, day of her visit, I found Anna lurking in the larder. She had unearthed a can of tuna and a can of tomatoes. Then she found a box of dusty spaghetti and clutched it like manna in the desert.

“I’m going to make lunch for you today,” she crowed. “I’ll make what we always make in Sicily when there’s nothing in the house.”

I scribbled this recipe as she whipped up her Sicilian-style sauce in under five minutes. I’ve made it umpteen times since then because, truth be told, there’s often niente in the casita.

Hot pepper flakes are important (I use a smallish red pepper without the seeds), but capers are optional—if you like them you can get a small jar for a few bucks at Trader Joe’s. Parsley or cilantro doll up the dish, but aren’t essential either. Here’s an online recipe that’s quite similar. (It lacks the dash of ruddy wine, though, which I like.) Buon Appetito!


Sicilian Pasta with tomatoes and tuna, copyright Jann Huizenga


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9 comments to Sicilian Standby: Anna’s Pasta Sauce

  • quel piatto era fantastico! after a long day of work, I just whipped up this dish (super easy), and along with some fresh asparagus, home made bruschetta and a glass of wine I had a perfect meal. I even enjoyed it out out on the patio this lovely spring evening. I imagine that it would be even better with the Italian canned tuna though. My friend, when she returns home to Milan, never brings much back home with her to the states, that is except for one thing…she fills her suitcase with scatole di tonno! She even gave me a couple of her precious cans once…and there really is a difference!

    • Jann

      Glad you enjoyed it! (Yes, you’re right, Melissa, about the canned tuna–the Italian version is much better. Why should that be??)

  • Poked into the larder, found tuna and tomatoes, then channeled Anna to put a plate of pasta on for dinner. Enjoyed her/your company to the max. Ciao bella!

  • and just like that…inspiration strikes for dinner! I just so happen to be staring at a can of tuna and a can of tomatoes! Thanks for the tip!

  • Thank you for the recipe, it’s wonderful, John Schinina

  • I will most certainly try this recipe! I have tried the Italian tuna packed in olive oil….delicious. When recipe cards have a bit of food on them, you know they are well used.

  • I have to try that….not a fan of hot tuna, but it can’t be as bad as tuna casserole! WHere did you live in NM?

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