Tonno con Cipolle: Lunch for One

July 8, 2010

Onions, copyright Jann HuizengaI’m trying to learn the Sicilian art of slow living, so my Sicilian self often sits down for a leisurely hot lunch at midday. Today’s was exceptional. Made by moi for moi.

But, really, all the credit goes to Giovanna Giglio, a cooking teacher in Ragusa.

Giovanna in her garden

My niece and I took classes with her in June; this is just one of her wonderful recipes. Super easy! Prep and cooking time less than 10 minutes. If you’re interested in lessons with Giovanna, contact me. She’s fun and inexpensive. Though she says she’s “just a housewife who cooks like all other Ragusan housewives,” she’ll be featured in Saveur magazine next spring baking her Easter breads.


Ingredients (serves 4)

*fresh tuna fillets for 4 (about a 1/2-inch thick)

*olive oil

*2-4 large onions

*10-15 cherry tomatoes


*fresh oregano

*salt and pepper

1. Coat the tuna fillets lightly with flour. This will allow the fish to cook quickly and will seal in the juices. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook the tuna for a minute or two on each side until golden. Remove from pan.

2. Cut the onions in half and then cut them thinly into moon-shaped pieces (they’re pretty this way but can also be sliced any which way). Add them to the oil and juices already in the pan (add a bit more oil if needed). Fry until slightly wilted and golden.

3. Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan until they soften (you can mush them with a fork).

4. Add capers to taste. If you’re using salt-preserved capers, be sure to rinse them before adding. (I used to be caper-phobic, but now that I know to rinse these babies, I’m quite smitten.)

Rinse the capers!

5. Put the tuna back into the frying pan, add the fresh oregano, salt and pepper and let everything simmer for a few minutes so that the tuna is infused with the flavor of the other ingredients.

6. Remove everything to a serving platter. The dish is good served hot, but even better served at room temperature. (You can let the tuna sit out for a couple hours. Refrigerate if you’re going to serve it the next day.)


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12 comments to Tonno con Cipolle: Lunch for One

  • Dennis Berry

    We must try this. We did the Mahimahi menu from Toni Lydecker using halibut. It was very good. I saw some peaches yesterday at the farmers market called Saturn’s. They looked like the little chocolate covered donuts from hostess, kind of oval, not really well formed, but the colors were nice. They were good but did not match your description of Peshe Tabacchiere.

    • Jann

      Ciao Dennis–if you try it, let us know how it tastes with West Coast tuna, especially since you can compare it to Sicilian tuna.

  • catherine Billups

    looks delicious and I would love to try the cooking lessons next time I am in Sicilia.

  • John Schinina

    Hi Jann, In New Jersey they’re is a word that says it all “Fugetaboutit”. Tuna in the US surrounding waters does not taste, not even close to Mediterranean Tuna. It’s flavor is very different, much dryer very little fat and therefore taste is not same, they do look alike but much smaller in size. I have eaten both so. Enjoy,John Schinina

    • Jann

      Ok, John! Grazie! Have you tried coating US tuna with flour and cooking it fast? Would that help to seal in what juices there are?

  • Emalene Renna

    the best tuna in USA is in Barnegat Light New Jersey
    where the fish is expensive but Cassidy’s is right
    on the dock and brought in every day. It’s one
    of the few places left in the Northeast that
    still has active commericial fishing. I live on
    Bainbridge Island, Washington and Barnegat Light,
    New Jersey and love seafood

    • Jann

      Emalene–thanks for these tips. How interesting that you live on both coasts! Well, of course you know your seafood!

  • Josephine

    The last time I bought tuna in Ragusa (about 10 years ago) was at Donna Fugata at the stand by the beach and I was amazed to see the Japanese there shopping. It’s about $12 a pound here, but most times it has no flavor at all and it is extremely dry. It’s moist if you only singe it. I don’t even bother buying it any more, but in my mind, I can still smell and taste the tuna in Ragusa. Have you tasted a scaccia cu a tunina? (Tuna with onions baked in a bread dough.) Ask Giovanna about it. Ciau,Jo

    • Jann

      I’ve bought some pretty good tuna from Whole Foods. I’d love to hear from other readers. Have you eaten good tuna in the US?

  • Josephine

    You have no idea how really good fresh tuna is unless you’ve eaten it in Sicily.
    Your recipe, Jann, made me salivate because I can still remember how tasty and moist the tuna is there. I can even remember the delicious aroma while it is cooking. Beata tu!

    • Jann

      Hi Jo, yes tuna is exceptional here. GIovanna the cooking teacher was lamenting about tuna prices nowadays. Apparently Sicilian tuna used to be amazingly cheap before the Japanese discovered it! Now it’s 20 euro/kilo, though from my point of view that seems reasonable for what you get!

  • Emalene Renna

    Looks delicious, can’t wait to try when I can find fresh tuna. Going to Jersey shore next week where the tuna is great. Let you know how it turns out.

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