Back in the 90s, pasta was the staple food of single women and gay men. “The Italians don’t get fat and they eat it every day,” was part of the reasoning (not getting fat being one of the particular obsessions of single women and gay men for reasons that are probably obvious).
Then there was the speed and efficiency of pasta; if you can boil water and saute garlic (or open a jar), you can probably put together a pre-club, pre-booze meal even while doing your pre-club ablutions and outfit selection (and mixing a pre-club cocktail — or two — while blowdrying).
Finally, pasta was a perfectly acceptable dish to serve guests for a dinner party; if you grated your own Parmigiano Reggiano and the sauce included mushrooms — and there was plenty of wine –, why you were practically a gourmet chef! What could be more right?
Then The Dark Cloud of Carbohydrate Catastrophe descended upon single-woman-and-gay-mankind.
The devious Italians had tricked us by using less sauce, lighter sauce, only having one serving, and actually walking places to stay thin. We flocked to the safety of sliced steak and mesclun salad to contain our belly fat.
Now that I am a mom, pasta is back in my life. The aforementioned speed and efficiency is critical, the leftovers-for-lunch potential unparalleled, and so is pasta’s ability to be the receptacle for so many healthy vegetables that might otherwise languish on the side of a little kid’s plate, a line in the sand of Who-Is-Really-In-Charge-Here Beach, a combustible place where any parental victory is likely a Pyrrhic one.
But for a long time I was pretending not to eat the pasta I was making for Leandro. I say pretending, because, as so many moms, I was tasting to the point of having no meal left to serve at the table and finishing whatever he left on his plate – you know, all the bad little mommy habits that lead to the dreaded belly fat and the matronly figure before one’s appointed time.
So enough of the bullshit and the pretending. I am making pasta dishes that I like and eating them with my son like the civilized human being that I am (and hoping to once again have that slim, single-pasta-eating-woman of the 90s figure).
This is one of the fast dishes I learned to make in Italy (where I lived for two years, acquiring pasta skills for the 90s), slightly modified to reflect my Latin pantry. I made it for Leandro for the first time this week and he loved it and I loved it and BASTA! Enough talk – here’s the recipe!
1 lb. pasta of your choice (this sauce clings and is also chunky, so most medium shapes – long or short – will suit)
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
½ Cup onion, chopped fine
(2-3 anchovies packed in oil, optional; use paper towels to sop up excess oil)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
10 pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained indifferently and sliced
2 tsp capers, drained indifferently
5 oz can tuna packed in water, not drained (you should drain it if using tuna packed in oil)
Salt to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium-large saucepan at medium high until oil is fragrant. Add onions, stir to coat, then lower heat to medium-low. When onions are translucent, add optional anchovies, breaking up with your spoon. Add crushed tomatoes and stir to mix. Stir in olives and capers and simmer for five minutes. Add tuna (with water from can), stir to combine and break up. Simmer for an additional five minutes. Add cooked pasta to saucepan and stir to combine. Salt to taste and serve. This dish doesn’t really require grated cheese, but go ahead and try it with Parmigiano Reggiano if you like! Serve with crusty bread for dipping.