23 December 2010

Easy tuna tomato sauce

Raining again this morning, but at least it's not snow. We're hoping the rain won't become snow tomorrow either, because that's our big market day. We have to drive over to Montrichard (10 miles west) to pick up the turkey and buy some sprouts or other green vegetable.

A few days ago I saw a TV chef (Eric Léautey on French CuisineTV) making some pasta sauces. The one that attracted me, both because it seems unusual and it reminds me of a recipe I used to make in Paris back in the 1970s, was a sauce tomate au thon to be served with pasta. It's a great dish for a gray winter day.

I get really hungry just looking at this photo.
It even looks kind of Christmas-y.

Years ago, I had a recipe out a long-gone book (where did that book go, anyway, and which one was it?) that was called Tuna Provençal. Or Provençale. In the book it was in English, I'm sure. It used canned tuna, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, and herbs like thyme and rosemary. I think I remember it being served with rice.

That's exactly the sauce Eric Léautey made on his show the other day. I didn't get his recipe and haven't yet found it on the www.cuisine.tv web site. I found similar recipes on other web sites, however, and they are all very similar to each other.

The olives are optional, really, but so good if you like them.

One advantage of a recipe like this is that it is so fast to prepare. It's ready in 10 or 15 minutes, about the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta. Here's the recipe:
Sauce tomate au thon

3 cups of tomato purée or sauce
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, trimmed and diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
(some fresh basil and rosemary if available)
salt and black pepper to taste
½ tsp. cayenne pepper (or a squirt of harissa)
15 or 20 olives, green or black, pitted or not
1 or 2 small tins of tuna, flaked

Sauté the onion and green pepper together in olive oil. Add the tomato purée or sauce (and adjust the quantity). Stir in the parsley, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Add the tuna (about 200 grams or 6 oz.) and finally the olives. As soon as it's heated through and starting to simmer, it's ready.

If you use tuna packed in olive oil, use that olive oil to make the sauce. If you use tuna packed in water, put some of the tuna water into the sauce (but taste it for saltiness first). The better the tuna, the better the sauce, of course. Same goes for the tomato sauce or puree. Of course canned tomatoes could be very good, and fresh tomatoes, in season, even better. La sauce tomate au thon is more an idea than a recipe, really.


  1. I'm going to give this one a try since dd eats a vegetarian that eats fish and likes tuna. I bet it would be good with salmon also.

  2. I bet you used tomato purée from your own garden, didn't you? You didn't grow the thon, did you? :)))

    I'm not sure that I like seafood with tomato-base sauces as much as with cream or broth-based sauces, but I usually enjoy just about anything that is made well... and, coming from your kitchen, it surely would be!

    Miam miam! Enjoy the lovely drive to Montrichard for that Christmas dinde.


  3. Great minds. I'm making a tomato, herbe de provence, olive sauce to bake some dos de cabillaud and serve with rice.

  4. My kids like this kind of sauce. Like you said, it's fast to make.

  5. Ken

    You are bringing back memories. This was part of my mother's list of recipes. Once a month- either with canned tuna or canned salmon- whatever was in the pantry. We didn't have olives on the island but slivers of long green chillies were de rigueur. It was served with rice and veggies on the side

  6. I have just finished reading your blog and now I am feeling hungry. The pictures just add to my need to take a lunch break from the last minute Christmas shopping. My shop bought roast chicken seems a little inadequate against your splendid menu. Christmas greetings to you and Walt.

  7. Hi Evelyn, yes, salmon. And with fresh fish it would be even better than with tuna out of a can. The olives are of course optional and could be replaced by another vegetable.

    Judy, yes, we used some tomato purée that we put up in jars last September or October. We have so much of it. But we had to buy tuna -- the ones out in the Cher are endangered and protected!

    Susan, I have some cod fillets in the freezer. Thanks for the idea ... for January.

    Hi Meredith, so the recipe is provençale then?

    The B., sounds like your mother planned good menus. Tuna-tomato sauce over rice or pasta is a good recipe for Christmastime, when we all have entirely too much turkey on our tables. Spicy, hot tomato sauce is a good change.

    Hi Ann, Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  8. Thanks for keeping us all abreast with daily life in Touraine; we shall met up some day soon.
    Howard and Janet 37120


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?