Thursday, December 18

Quick Italian Tuna and Olive Pasta for the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. Plus a Gourmet Herb Give-Away!

quick Italian tuna and olive pasta

When I was a kid growing up in Rhode Island, I never could understand all the fuss some families made about Christmas Day dinner. It always seemed weird to me. After all, who could eat a huge ham or turkey dinner after a gargantuan Christmas Eve feast?

Of course, when I got a little older, I realized that not everyone celebrated the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. I thought that was weird too.

Turns out it's not weird at all. The Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes,
is celebrated primarily among southern Italians. And Rhode Island, the state with the highest percentage of Italians, is home to many southern Italians.

This centuries-old feast celebrated on Christmas Eve has its roots in Medieval Italy and the Roman Catholic tradition of abstinence. When Catholics abstained from meat on holy days, they typically ate fish. Why seven types of fish? Historians believe it may be symbolic of Roman Catholicism's seven sacraments. Why Christmas Eve? Because Catholics would await the stroke of midnight, which was the time for the birth of the baby Jesus. That also explains why so many Italians attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Of course, it's not always easy staying awake after savoring a seafood dinner of epic proportions.
Though most families enjoy classic southern Italian dishes such as fried smelts and linguine with white clam sauce, many families (like my husband's) have their own specialties, such as Gram's stuffed squid in tomato sauce.

quick Italian tuna and olive pasta

For my family it was pretty much the same every year. A first course consisted of fried smelts, fried calamari,
snail salad, and boiled shrimp cocktail.

Then came two pasta dishes such as pasta aioli (pasta made with olive oil, garlic, and pepper) and linguine with mixed seafood.

Then for the finale: baked stuffed shrimp with a side of sauteed garlicky broccoli rabe. Most of us were too full to eat the baked stuffed shrimp, since it was last course in a dinner that stretched over 4-5 hours. Plus you had to save room for cheesecake and Italian Christmas cookies, such as pizzelle, biscotti, and pignoli cookies.

When we don't make it home for Christmas Eve, Jeff and I usually make a big bowl of linguine with white clam sauce and reminisce. We just make sure there is a box of tissues nearby, since tears of laughter and sometimes sadness usually arise.

You don't have to be Italian or even celebrate Christmas to enjoy my Quick Italian Tuna and Olive Pasta. This flavorful dish is deliciously simple to make and simply delicious to eat anytime of the year.

I am delighted to send my pasta to Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita and Joe of Italyville, who are co-hosting The Feast of the Seven Fishes.

I'm also delighted to share this dish with Giz and Psychgrad of Equal Opportunity Kitchen, the hosts of Blogger Aid: Because We Can Help. They're looking for a dish that you would feed to a hungry guest visiting your home during the holidays. Val of More Than Burnt Toast, Ivy of Kopiaste.. to Greek Hospitality and Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen have joined forces to create BloggerAid: Bloggers Uniting to Aid in the Alleviation of Hunger. Learn more about it here.

Finally, this pasta dish was made with Daregal Gourmet Herbs, fresh frozen herbs. No, that's not an oxymoron. Read about them here and enter for a chance to win some free herbs!

flott tuna in pure olive oil
I recommend using a top quality tuna packed in olive oil, such as Flott, which can be found in most Italian specialty markets.

Quick Italian Tuna and Olive Pasta

This fast and easy Italian tuna pasta is simple enough to become a weeknight go-to meal yet elegant enough to serve for a holiday or special dinner party. I recommend using a top quality tuna packed in olive oil, such as Flott, which can be found in most Italian specialty markets.

Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

2 (5-6 oz) cans or jars of Italian tuna packed in olive oil
1/2 cup sliced olives, such as Kalamata and green Cerignola
1 1/2 cups cannelini beans, rinsed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
the zest of half of a lemon
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley*
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 pound spaghetti
salt, to taste

In a large bowl combine tuna with its oil, sliced olives, beans, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, and red pepper flakes. Then stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until well combined.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until al dente. Drain in a colander and return to pot. Add the tuna mixture to the pot and toss well. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil until pasta is well coated. Warm until just heated through. Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional chopped fresh parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

*Note: In addition to parsley, I sometimes add finely chopped celery leaves.

You might also like:

Lobster Fra Diavolo

Tagliatelle with Pan-Seared Shrimp and Fennel

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Elra said...

I have no idea!
I'd be happy if to be invited for Christmas Eve and enjoy seven different type of fish. Especially, that linguini and clam sauce (this is my favorite). Of course I like your tuna and olive pasta too. Sound easy to make, and delicious.

Kara said...

Wow - this looks so great and you're right, the perfect simple (but elegant) weeknight meal! Now if I can convince my husband to eat olives... *bought ingredients for your chili and cherry-pistachio-chocolate chip cookies last night - can't wait!

Anonymous said...

I love this dish, Susan! Thanks so much for joining us. Merry Christmas :)

Bellini Valli said...

This is a wonderful dish to serve anytime Susan. We have a huge meal on Christmas Eve and Christmas about gluttony:D

Stacey Snacks said...

I buy the FLOTT tuna in a jar, it is even better than the can.
I have always loved tuna w/ pasta.

Happy Holidays.

giz said...

What a great dish Susan and an excellent entry to BloggerAid - Because We Can Help. When you talk about the Italian pastries, I just get warm all over.

Joan Nova said...

mmm...making me drool for my family's all-fish Christmas Eve. 6 days and counting!
P.S. I'm very curious about the statistic that RI has the highest percentage of Italians. I would have thought NY or NJ...I guess it's a per capita equation not absolute numbers

Cookie baker Lynn said...

I always learn interesting new things when I read your blog. Sounds like you have an amazing Christmas Eve lined up.

City Girl said...

Just discovered you via the feast event. Your dish looks so tasty!

Melody Polakow said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again.. I love reading about all the traditions in your childhood..

I admit, I am a tad bit jealous having not grown up with a family like that... it all seems so magical..

Thank you for continuing to share with us!

Africantapestry and Myfrenchkitchen said...

A great post Susan, chock full of interesting reading, not to mention delicious dishes. I didn't know the other half of your family is Italian? I love the different traditions we all have...

Helene said...

I really like reading this post. Great pictures & lovely meal.

Michelle said...

My family never did the full-on feast for Christmas Eve. I wish we had, it's such a great Italian tradition!

Ivy said...

I love reading about your traditions and it's really strange to combine pasta with beans. We make exactly the same dish in Greece but without the pasta. I will try it next time. Thanks for joining BloggerAid.

joe@italyville said...

Susan, what a beautifully prepared dish. I'm a big fan of the tuna in oil. Thanks for participating and happy holidays!

Goody said...

As I read the recipe all I could think was:
"Forget the pasta, toss that on a sub with some cheese!" Classy, I'm not. Gosh, it looks fantastic.

I really wish we had an Italian grocer here (the things I used to take for granted in Boston, eh?)I can't even find domestic tuna in olive oil. I love the cute tin.

Culinarywannabe said...

Oh how I wish I liked olives!! I try them every few months to see if my taste buds have somehow miraculously evolved to like them. Maybe someday!

Sarah said...

Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner is bouillobaisse (for the same reasons you mentioned above, plus it just tastes so good!). . . your recipe looks fantastic too! May have to schedule it for sometime in January . . . :)


Susan said...

Susan this pasta dish looks so delicious.
I remember growing up my Dad and Mom made so many wonderful fish the years passed and so did my Dad we make less and less...we seem to eat less too these days.
My Mom and I often wonder how we manage to eat so much food in those days. I miss it- you had me drooling with the mention of snail salad!

Rita said...

I also grew up having a huge Christmas Eve dinner ( at dad's family), followed by another huge meal - Christmas Day lunch (mom's family). One good thing about being raised by divorced parents...

chefectomy said...

Hi Susan,

I was not familiar with the 7 fishes tradition, very interesting. I love Italian tuna and your dish looks wonderful!


Peter G said...

Tuna and pasta I can eat forever! Great job with this recipe Susan!

Manggy said...

Susan, that pasta is a thing of beauty. I'll be sure to look for that brand of tuna in particular :) I would also love this with a bit of sauteed garlic!

Though we're Catholic, advent/Christmas is not usually a time for abstinence here (only Lent). I don't think I could take abstinence for more than one period a year :P

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

In our Rhode Island home we'll be celebrating Christmas Eve this year with the feast of the seven latkes, as Christmas and Chanukah overlap! Filling, those latkes, but not as filling as the traditional seven fishes dinners some of my friends are preparing. It is a wonderful tradition, but more and more our friends are finding ways to combine seven fishes into just two dishes, to make it easier to get through the big meal. Is that cheating???

Peter M said...

What a wonderful and rustic pasta dish...beans and tuna sound wonderful.

LyB said...

Oh, my gosh, that looks so good, I would have it any time of year for sure. Quick, easy and delicious, I couldn't ask for anything more. :)

The Healthy Librarian said...

Sounds delicious & quick. Here's another winner for a quick dinner- with 2 cans of Italian tuna, lots of garlic, olive oil, parsley, cherry tomatoes, basil & gemelli pasta.

I got it from someone in the grocery store line--& then found it online.

Jeanne said...

I had never heard of this feast(probably partly because I'm not Catholic!!) - but how on earth do you sleep after all that?! :o)

The pasta looks heavenly though - hot or cold.