Would you believe that’s the secret ingredient in this lusty pasta sauce?
Yes, V8, the canned and bottled deep-red vegetable juice that’s been around since 1933.
Normally, I might pooh-pooh the idea of pulling the tab on a can of mass-produced tomato-enriched juice to toss with pasta for dinner, especially since I rarely even quaff the stuff straight .
But this recipe for “Spaghettini with Tuna and V8 Sauce” comes from none other than esteemed chefs, Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of award-winning Terra restaurant in St. Helena. And it was published in the cookbook, “A Twist of the Wrist” (Alfred A. Knopf), written by equally revered Pastry Chef, Nancy Silverton, famed for founding La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles, as well as for her restaurants there and in Singapore in conjunction with Mario Batali — Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza.
The 137 recipes in this book are all about the way so many of us cook on harried evenings at home — by reaching for some stellar jarred, bottled or other prepared ingredients for a little help in the kitchen to put together a delicious meal in no-time flat.
Silverton writes in the book that she also thought the recipe daft when Doumani first told her that it’s a staple she makes at home. But once she looked at the ingredients list on a can of V8, which included tomato, carrot, celery and parsley, the logic for it came clear.
The dish comes together in 30 minutes. The V8 is simmered with chopped onion, chopped celery, garlic, capers, chopped olives, undrained olive oil-packed tuna, and a pinch of chile flakes for a kick of heat on the finish.
The sauce is complex and less sweet than your usual jarred pasta sauce. It’s salty and piquant, and quite rich from the meaty tuna and its olive oil. The celery keeps its crunch, adding a surprising textural contrast to the soft tuna.
It’s almost like a tuna puttanesca sauce. And it’s dynamite. So much so, that you’ll definitely be wishing you had a V8 pronto.
Spaghettini with Tuna and V8 Sauce from Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of Terra Restaurant
(Serves 4 normal appetites or 2 ravenous ones)
8 ounces spaghettini (or spaghetti)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 celery stalk, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 large garlic clove, grated or minced (about 1 teaspoon)
Pinch of chile flakes
1 cup V8
6 ounces olive oil-packed tuna, not drained
1 tablespoon capers
3 tablespoons small pitted green olives or black olives, coarsely chopped
High-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add a generous amount of kosher salt. Stir in the spaghettini, return water to a boil, and cook pasta, stirring occasionally to prevent strands from sticking together, until it’s al dente. (Since cooking times vary, for perfectly cooked pasta, refer to the package instructions for the recommended time and taste the pasta frequently while it cooks.)
While water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and onion together in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and saute until onion is just translucent, about 4 minutes. Add celery, garlic, and chile flakes and cook until garlic is softened and fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly so garlic doesn’t brown. Add the V8 and bring it to a simmer. Stir in the tuna (including the oil it’s packed in), capers, and olives and reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the sauce simmer until the pasta is cooked.
Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water, then use tongs to lift the pasta out of the water and transfer it quickly, while it’s still dripping with water, to the skillet with the sauce. Stir in the reserved pasta water and cook the pasta with the sauce over medium-high heat, stirring to combine, for about 1 minute, so the pasta absorbs the sauce a bit.
Use tongs to lift the pasta out of the skillet and pile it onto four pasta or soup plates, dividing it evenly and twisting it into high mounds. Drizzle with the high-quality olive oil.
From “A Twist of the Wrist” by Nancy Silverton with Carolyn Carreno
More Unusual Recipes: Stir-Fried Bagels with Cabbage and Bacon