No matter what else changes on our Christmas Eve menu, the meal always begins with a bowl of pasta with this savory sauce, rich with chunks of tuna and punched up with anchovies and capers. Fedelini are thin noodles that are slightly thicker than angel hair pasta. They absorb the sauce well. They can be found in well-stocked supermarkets. Substitute angel hair pasta (capellini) if you can’t find fedelini. This recipe is adapted from my book "The Glorious Pasta of Italy" (Chronicle Books, 2011).
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, with their juice
- 3 large cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- Generous pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 (5-ounce) tins imported Italian solid-pack tuna in olive oil, drained (reserve a little oil)
- 8 best-quality imported Italian or Spanish anchovy fillets in olive oil, coarsely mashed with a fork
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and finely chopped
- 2 (1-pound) packages fedelini or capellini (angel hair)
Fit food mill with disk with smallest holes and set over a bowl. Pass the tomatoes through the mill to puree them and remove the seeds. Discard seeds. If you don’t have a food mill, you can skip this rather fussy step and just use a potato masher to mash up the tomatoes in a bowl.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, put pureed or mashed tomatoes. Add garlic, 1 tablespoon parsley, salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes or until the oil rises to the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low if necessary to prevent sauce from spattering or burning.
Stir in the tuna (with a drizzle of the reserved oil), anchovies, capers and remaining 2 tablespoons parsley. Cook sauce on medium-low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until it has thickened in consistency and the flavors have come together.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil while sauce is cooking. Add pasta and stir to separate noodles. Boil pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup of cooking water.
Return pasta to pot and spoon a generous quantity of sauce—several ladlefuls—over it. Gently toss pasta to coat with sauce. Add a splash or two of reserved cooking water to loosen sauce if necessary. Transfer dressed pasta to a warmed serving bowl or individual bowls and spoon a little more sauce over the top. Serve immediately.