From Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy” Season 2.
In Chapter 3 of the current season, Stanley made his way to Sardegna. The first words he spoke about the place are shown here. Sardinia has many charms. Stanley explored its bitter honey, its Pecorino cheese, its bread, and its bottarga—the dried pressed roe of the mullet fish. And then he got to the island of San Carlo, four miles off the island’s southwestern coast. There he ate the dish we present today. Made with creamy basil pesto, fresh or high-quality tinned Italian tuna, and cherry tomatoes, the sauce is served with Malloreddus. These are small gnocchi made with semolina flour and saffron grown in Sardinia. This rich seafood pasta is not at all difficult. It takes 15 minutes to prep and 30 minutes to cook. And that includes making the pesto which you can make in the blender or the food processor.
This authentic recipe for “Tuna and Pesto Pasta” is easy to make.
We searched for the recipe on our favorite Italian cooking sites. Believe it or not, we found it in an Italian food shop in St. Michael’s Maryland. Hold onto this link: https://www.simpaticostmichaels.com/ because you won’t find the ingredients in your local supermarket. You will find them at Simpatico. They have everything—even Sardinian olive oil. The recipe will cut you some slack on the Malloreddus suggesting you can substitute with other short pasta like cavatelli and orecchiette. But then you’d miss out on the Sardinian saffron which gives the pasta a beautiful yellow color as it cooks. The pesto recipe is from www.giallozafferano.it which appropriately translates to yellow saffron! It’s Ligurian– where many Sardinians can trace their roots. The only difference here is that local hard Pecorino cheese is used in addition to the traditional Parmigiano in a nod to Sardinia.
Why Tuna and why San Carlo? Because of La Tonnara di Carloforte
A tonnara is a set of specially arranged fishing nets used to catch bluefin tuna. Tuna fishing in Sardinia dates to 2000 years before Christ. Archeological finds show the use of harpoons dating to that period. Sardinian tuna overwhelming comes from the Carloforte tuna trap, the only tuna trap still active today in the Mediterranean. This technique was introduced by the Arabs. To this day, the terminology of Sardinian tuna fishermen, uses many Arabic words, such as “rais”, the head of the tuna, which means “boss” or “king”. Due to the popularity of bluefin tuna, particularly among Japanese sushi makers, the fishermen of Sardinia are highly aware that bluefin tuna is now an endangered species. But Carloforte’s traditional trap is a sustainable fishing method. Unlike industrial fishermen, which indiscriminately destroy everything in their nets, Sardinian fishermen take only 8 percent of what comes into their tonnara. To see them fish, here’s a link to a YouTube video from World Food: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5KWbc_iXCQ
Here’s today’s recipe from Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy” Season 2 and links to several more…
You can buy Pesto in a jar or in the refrigerator section of your grocery store, but there is nothing better than making it yourself.
- 2 cups Fresh Basil Leaves (no stems)
- 2 tablespoons of pine nuts
- 2 large cloves Garlic
- ½ cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano Cheese (freshly grated)
- 1/4 cup Pecorino Cheese (freshly grated)
- Step 1 Combine basil leaves, pine nuts or walnuts and garlic in a food processor or blender and process until very finely minced.
- Step 2 With the machine running slowly dribble in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth.
- Step 3 Add the cheese and process very briefly, just long enough to combine. Use at once or store in the refrigerator
Sardinian Gnocchi allo Carlofortino (Tuna and Pesto Malloreddus)
Made with creamy basil pesto, fresh or high quality tinned Italian tuna and cherry tomatoes, the sauce is served with Malloreddus-- small gnocchi made with semolina flour and saffron.
- 400 g (14 oz.) Malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi)
- 300 g (10 to 11 oz.) Fresh Tuna or 2-4.5 oz. Tinned Belly Tuna
- 15-20 cherry tomatoes cut into halves or quarters
- 1 onion small
- 1/2 glass (2.5 oz.) white wine
- Salt for pasta and to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
- Step 1 Make the Pesto (Recipe above)
- Step 2 Make the alla Carlofortina sauce
- Step 3 Peel and chop the onion. Cut the tuna into small cubes (if using fresh tuna) Break apart the tuna if using canned. Wash the tomatoes and cut them into halves or quarters.
- Step 4 Fry the finely chopped onion in olive oil in a skillet or deep frying pan until it starts to soften. Add the chopped tuna then add the white wine and let the alcohol evaporate. At the end add the halved cherry tomatoes, salt, and pepper and cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.
- Step 5 Cook the pasta.
- Step 6 While the sauce is cooking, put a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring it to a boil again. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. When the pasta is ready, save a cup of the cooking water and drain. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix well.
- Step 7 Add the pesto to the pasta and sauce and mix well again. If it seems dry, add a spoonful of the saved pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.