Hot pasta 'cooks' quick tuna, lemon and caper sauce

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

A pasta sauce that doesn't need any cooking may suit you especially well at this time of year, when there's every inducement to get out of the kitchen fast.

Joie Warner's book "No Cook Pasta Sauces" (Chronicle, 1998, $17.95 paperback) is full of ideas to help you come up with exactly that solution to beat the heat. The pasta is the only thing you have to cook. "Tossing the components with the hot pasta is what 'cooks' the sauce," Warner explains.

The book gives 75 recipes, many illustrated in color photos by Drew Warner, the writer's husband.

For this tuna, lemon and caper recipe, Warner says she prefers solid-pack tuna in olive oil for the best flavor and texture. She sometimes includes a small handful of unpitted black olives and a large, ripe tomato, seeded and diced. "Italians would never serve cheese with fish," she adds, "but you have my permission to break the rules!"

Tuna, Lemon and Caper Sauce

6-ounce can tuna (chunk or solid in olive oil), drained

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

Grated peel of 1 medium lemon

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup fruity olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons capers, drained

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Recommended pasta: 8 ounces penne rigate, medium shells, rigatoni or linguine.

Place tuna in pasta serving bowl and break it into large bite-size pieces. Add garlic, lemon peel, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and capers, and stir gently to combine. Set aside to warm to room temperature, or preferably, place the bowl (be sure it's heatproof) over the pasta pot to warm the ingredients while heating the water. Once the water comes to a boil, remove bowl and set aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain pasta well and immediately add to sauce in bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and toss. Serve at once with Parmesan cheese. Pass the pepper mill.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

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