While Italians use ventresca di tonno ali’olio (canned tuna packed in olive oil) for most of their salads and pastas, we prefer fresh tuna cooked on the grill. It remains moist and doesn’t need a heavy infusion of oil to replace the moisture lost in canning. The tuna closest to ventresca is albacore, but we use the redder fleshed yellowfin when we can get it because it stays moister.
Heat the grill or broiler. Brush both sides of the tuna with a little of the olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Grill or broil a few minutes on each side for medium-rare to medium doneness. Let the tuna cool, then break it into rough 1-inch chunks.
Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and anchovies and cook 1 minute. Stir in the tuna, tomato sauce, tomatoes, capers, olives, and parsley; heat through.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
Stir the lemon zest if using into the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Drain the spaghetti and transfer to a pasta bowl. Add the sauce and quickly toss to combine. Serve hot. No cheese, please.
© 1998 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.