Tuna Pâté For Starters

Meet the versatile, easy-to-make, and economical tuna pâté.
Meet the versatile, easy-to-make, and economical tuna pâté.

When the temperature soars, that last thing you want to do is turn up the heat in your kitchen.

“Tuna Pâté’ is perfect for those scorching days, because it’s served chilled, and the only real cooking it involves is boiling a potato and a couple of eggs on the stovetop.

Best yet, it tastes like a more sophisticated version of your favorite tuna salad sandwich.

The recipe is from the new “Cooking alla Giudia” (Artisan Books), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta, an Italian food writer and photographer. Born in Milan and now living in Santa Monica, she is on a mission to shine a light on Italian Jewish food in Italy and abroad.

The book presents more than 100 recipes that celebrate the food, history, and traditions of Jewish food in Italy. For instance, did you know that orecchiette pasta that’s famed in Apulia most likely came from Provence, France by Jews who settled in the 12th century? Or that the prevalence of eggplant in Italian cuisine is thanks to Jews in Spain during the Middle Ages who learned to cook it from the Arabs? When the Jews were expelled from Spain, many of them relocated to Italy, bringing with them their expertise with eggplant cooking.

You’ll find plenty of eggplant and pasta recipes in this book, such as “Fried Eggplant with Melon” and even “Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe.” But there’s also so much more, including “Roman Beef Jerky,” “Roasted Branzino with Salsa Verde,” and “Passover Chocolate Mousse Cake.”

While the thought of making a pâté might initially seem intimidating, this one couldn’t be easier. Blend the cooked potato (I used a russet, which I noted in the recipe below) and egg yolks (save the whites to chop up in a salad) in a food processor.

Then, oil-packed tuna, a squirt of fresh lemon juice, some capers, and some softened butter, also get whipped in the food processor. The potato-egg yolk mixture then gets folded in to the tuna mixture, before shaped into a log that’s wrapped in a kitchen towel to chill and firm up in the refrigerator.

The easiest pâté to whip up in no time.
The easiest pâté to whip up in no time.

When ready to enjoy, unwrap it from the towel and serve with sliced bread or crackers and more capers. Or use as a sandwich filling. Or even atop bagel halves.

The pâté is smooth, creamy, and spreadable. It’s almost like a denser brandade (salt cod and potato whipped together). It tastes predominantly of rich tuna with the potato adding a little fluffiness.

In fact, it’s a pretty economical dish, allowing you to stretch three containers of good-quality, oil-packed tuna as an appetizer, picnic nosh, lunch or light dinner. Guetta indicates it will serve 4 to 6. But I think it will easily feed 6 to 8, which I added to the recipe.

I especially like the pâté paired with slices of heirloom tomatoes or crunchy cucumbers arrayed over the top as an open-faced sandwich. Feel free to garnish with a sprinkle of fresh, chopped herbs, too, such as Italian parsley, basil, or sorrel.

Any way you spread it, this is a dish made for summer.

Garnish with more capers, a squeeze of lemon, slices of summer tomatoes, or fresh herbs.
Garnish with more capers, a squeeze of lemon, slices of summer tomatoes, or fresh herbs.

Tuna Pâté

(serves 4 to 8)

1 large potato, such as russet, boiled and peeled

2 hard-boiled-egg yolks

Three 6-ounce cans yellowfin tuna packed in olive oil, drained

Juice of 2 lemons

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

A spoonful of capers, plus more for garnish (optional)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Lemon slices (optional)

In a food processor, grind together the boiled potato and egg yolks until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In the food processor (no need to clean it), process the tuna, lemon juice, butter, and capers, if using, together. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the potato mixture and salt, and mix together.

Using your hands, shape the tuna mixture into a log approximately 9 inches long and 3 inches thick. Wrap it tightly in a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate to chill for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.

Remove the pâté from the kitchen towel and pat gently with your fingers to remove the marks from the towel, in order to get a smooth surface. Transfer the pâté to a serving plate and slice it about 1/2 inch thick.

Serve the pâté cold, with lemon slices and capers for garnish, if desired, alongside sourdough bread, toast slices, or crackers. Or use as a sandwich filling.

Store leftovers in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container for a day or two, but no longer.

Adapted from “Cooking alla Giudia” by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta

More Recipes for Canned/Jarred Tuna: Campanile Tuna Noodle Casserole

And: Japanese-Style Tuna Noodle Salad

And: Spaghettini with Tuna and V8 Sauce

And: Tuna, Chickpeas, and Broccoli Salad

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  • Just back from NYC where we made a smoked bluefish pate. Very similar recipe (search for Legal Seafood Smoked Bluefish Pate.) Super delicious, you can mail order smoked bluefish.

  • When I make this — and I will — I will not sacrifice a kitchen towel!

  • Hi Lizzie: You are too funny! I don’t blame you one bit, though. I used a kitchen towel that was raggedy on the edges and probably on its last legs anyway. I suppose one could just throw the towel in the washing machine afterward, but I was afraid the tuna aroma might linger. 😉

  • Hi Reuel: I will definitely look up that Legal Seafood recipe. A version with smoked bluefish sounds sublime!

  • This looks great! Simple, yet this sounds incredibly flavorful. I think I’d use cling wrap rather than a towel — seems easier to manipulate, and would definitely store better in the refrigerator. Good stuff — thanks.

  • This will be a perfect nosh for our tinned-fish and caper-loving Jewish friend next time he is here for a feed!

  • Hi Carroll: Best yet, you can whip it up in no time. Enjoy! And hope your friend does, too.

  • Hi John: When I make it again, I am definitely trying the cling wrap instead to see if it makes a difference. Enjoy!

  • I think just packing it into ramekins would work well

  • Hi Judith: I like that idea! It makes it feel a little more special, too, because everyone gets their own ramekin then. 😉

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