Desperation Pasta

March 5, 2017
Yesterday I had one of those moments: what can I fix for supper? We all know the feeling, those of us responsible for putting food on the table. I thought about pasta, but couldn't decide on a shape or a sauce, so that wasn't much help. Then my genius husband said, "Could we have a pasta nicoise?"
I don't know what that might actually be, if it is a thing at all, but here's what I made up. Tuna, olives, olive oil, a bit of tomato, plus onion, garlic, and basil. I hardboiled an egg as well, since a salade nicoise has hard-boiled egg, but other than a bit of protein, I don't think it added much, so if this pasta dish ever happens again, I'll leave out the hardboiled egg.
While the big pot of (salted) water was being brought to a boil for the pasta (GF penne),  I thin-sliced an onion and let it soften in a quarter cup of olive oil for a few minutes, adding a couple cloves of chopped garlic toward the end. I dumped in a can of tuna* and broke it up a bit. Then I added about half a cup of tomato sauce**. The olives came next, the little nicoise-style ones that are unpitted.*** For the basil, I used a couple tablespoons of basil that I froze last summer when the garden was rich with it.****
At some point while I was putting the sauce together the water boiled so I threw the pasta into the water and set the timer for eight minutes. It took another minute or two beyond that before the pasta was al dente***** After saving out half a cup or so of the pasta cooking water, I drained the pasta well, then combined it with the sauce.****** The reserved cooking water can be added to the sauce to loosen it a bit and ensure that it covers each strand or piece of the pasta. If your sauce is sufficiently liquid, then you won't need the reserved water.
Our Desperation Pasta was delicious. We had no leftovers last night, but if there had been some left over, I would be heating it up for lunch today.
*My favourite used to be solid-pack white tuna, but I recently discovered the Rio brand, packed in oil. That's what I used here.  We always have it on hand, so it's a good thing to use in a Desperation Pasta.
**You could use part of a small can of tomato sauce. Mine was a bit of seasoned sauce I had frozen  several months before, so it was good to free up the space in the freezer. I always feel really virtuous when I make use of a leftover like that.
***Any olives willl do, though black might be preferred here. If they are large, you might chop them a bit. Because I am lazy--no, because I was in a hurry, right?--I didn't pit the olives for this. We're used to unpitted olives, we two adults who eat in this house; I just provide a little dish for the pits at the table. If you're serving this to children or strangers, it's probably a good idea to pit the olives--unless you have a great insurance policy.
****Wash the basil and pat it dry, then put it in the food processor adding olive oil as it runs. Store the resulting paste in small containers (or freeze it in ice cube trays & then pop the cubes into a plastic bag). Usually I thaw in advance what I'll be using, but In last-ditch situations, I chop or shave off what I need from the frozen block of basil.
*****To check for doneness, I fish out one piece of penne & cut it in half, putting one half back into the pot. The other half I eat. I want it cooked through but still slightly resistant. I check every 30 seconds or so until it's right.
******The easiest way to combine them is to put the drained pasta back into the big pot and pour the sauce over it. This gives you plenty of room to mix the two. Alternatively, you could put both into a large bowl (this is good for serving at the table), in which case you should warm the bowl beforehand. Or you could simply put the pasta into your serving plates and pour the sauce over it--but it's harder to mix that way.


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