Welcome to my Brand New “Foodie Friday” Recipe Series!
When people ask me if I cook, I usually respond, “I’m an eater, not a chef.”
I spend the majority of my time eating out — way out, from Austria to Zanzibar — but the super secret truth is that I do cook. I just don’t talk about it. I invent my own recipes, inspired by my favorite flavors and weird international cravings. There’s that time I stood painfully on crutches — days after major surgery — chopping cabbage slaw so I could have authentic fish tacos. In the kitchen I transform into a creature that is part mad scientist, part improv artist…and I drink. A lot. By the time whatever I’m cooking is plated, the floor is slick with onion juice and streaks of olive oil drip down the refrigerator door. If I’m lucky, a Band Aid isn’t necessary.
The most important aspect of being a successful cook is having passion for what you’re creating. Let loose in the kitchen – turn up the music, drink wine from the bottle, don’t stress about measurements. Taste your recipe constantly. HAVE FUN.
Each Friday, I’ll share a recipe (and we’re going to use that term loosely) of a favorite dish, snack, cocktail or dessert inspired by my international foodie adventures. Enjoy, and if you attempt to follow one of my culinary experiments, please let me know how it turns out.
Week 1: PASTA AL TONNO E PECORINO
- Half box (250g) pasta – try a tube-shaped pasta like penne or rigatoni for the best results
- Medium-sized chunk of aged pecorino cheese – When I’m in Tuscany, I use local Pecorino di Pienza, but any type of Pecorino (firm Italian sheep’s milk cheese) will work.
- Can of Italian tuna packed in oil – this can be difficult to find. In a pinch go for the highest quality tuna available, making sure it’s packed in oil, not water.
- Extra virgin olive oil.
- 1/2 medium-sized sweet onion (Vidalia or red Tropea)
- 1/4 teaspoon of peperoncino (red chili pepper flakes)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Put a pot of water on the stove, bring to a boil. Peel and chop the onion. Heat up a skillet/pan on medium-low heat and add a few shakes of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Add the peperoncino to the onions as they cook. Try not to choke on the spicy steam. Also don’t touch red chili peppers with the hand you use to take out your contact lenses, because that sucks. Cook the onions until the kitchen smells really good – or until they’re soft and translucent without turning brown. Add the tuna to the pan, breaking it up into small pieces. Keep the heat fairly low and stir until it’s evenly warm.
In the meantime, your water has begun to boil. Add your pasta of choice and PLEASE for the love of food, follow the suggested cooking time on the pasta box. I’m not one for following directions, but the worst thing in the world is nasty, limp pasta – so if the cooking time is “8 minutes,” don’t let that pasta boil one second longer. Drain the pasta and return to the pot.
Add the tuna sauce and stir. Lastly, grate a healthy amount of pecorino onto the pasta to taste. If you’re a cheese-head like me, go ahead, grate a mountain of the stuff. While you’re at it, grind some black pepper onto the pasta; it boosts the salty cheesy flavor.
Congratulations. Now, mangia!
I made this dish the other day, within minutes of arriving in Tuscany, straight off the airplane from New York City. This is a great pasta dish to throw together with minimal ingredients. I didn’t have penne or rigatoni, but I did have some tagliatelle, a can of tuna in the cupboard and an old chunk of pecorino in the fridge. I put a pot of water on to boil and trimmed the mold off the cheese – it was a go! The result:
My point here is that it doesn’t matter if you follow the recipe with absolute precision or not. Just try to capture the spirit of the dish – and remember… if it tastes good, it’s perfect.