Friday, June 8, 2012

Peas Be With You

Oh, don't worry: I thought for a long while before posting that as the title. So many bad puns, so little time. But actually, it's the "so little time" that impelled me to post this today. Around here, fresh green pea season is almost over, and, although some people don't get it, this is one of my favorite vegetables and I'm always looking for new things to do with the short season when perfect peas are in the market. Thing is, frozen peas are almost as good, and a lot of the recipes I see mandate using them instead. But the gap between "almost" and "fresh" is just big enough that I celebrate pea season.

So this year, I did some paglio e fiena ("hay and straw," where you're supposed to use equal portions of red and green pasta to support a cream sauce with shallots and peas and ham and Parmesan) and a superb mattar paneer (peas with pan-fried Indian cheese), and...I still had some left over. So when I stumbled on this recipe, I told myself a) it couldn't be that good and b) it was so simple and cheap I still had to try it. Well, one out of two isn't bad, so the third time I made it I grabbed the camera, knowing that it's still pea season in parts of the U.S., and if it's not you can use frozen. Not as good, I don't think, but I may well try this later in the year.

Anyway, here's what you need to make it.

Clockwise from the peas, we have the peas (well-thawed and with as much water as possible removed if you're using frozen), some parsley, pepper, olive oil, tuna in olive oil, and butter. The potatoes in the bowl to the rear aren't part of this.

You start by heating some olive oil, and then melting an equal amount of butter in it.

Then you add your peas.

Lower the heat and cover, so they partially sauté, partially steam. This will take a couple of minutes, no more. If in doubt, eat one to judge the texture.

Next, add the tuna. Break it up if you need to.

You should, by the way, have your pasta water boiling right about now. You should use a broad, flat pasta, like fettuccine or what I used, tagilatelle.

Anyway, when the sauce is cooked and the tuna's warm, throw in another couple of tablespoons of butter, some parsley and a little pepper...

...stir it around, add your pasta and stir it again, and there you are. I told you it was simple! It had just never occurred to me that this is a kind of deconstruction of that bane of my childhood, tuna-noodle casserole, stripped down to the good parts.

Oh, and no cheese: there's tuna in there, remember.

And if the evening's warm enough, a nice rosé goes real well with this. A Languedoc, of course!


  1. I didn't know it was an *actual* recipe... but I make something like this when I'm the only one I'm cooking for. No one else in this house will eat tuna.

  2. Nice. We got fresh rat now.

    Hudson Garlow

  3. wow! That looks fantastic! I would be sorely tempted to add some sort of pork to this like Pancetta...and garlic...hard to think of this as a casserole, though I can see how all the parts are there...

  4. George, the missing ingredient from this which would turn it into tuna-noodle casserole is Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. And bread crumbs, I guess. You don't need pancetta with the tuna, and you don't need garlic with the sweet peas. Trust me: I thought it was too simple to be good, but it used what I had to hand. I was wrong: it's spectacular.

  5. Dear Ed, Not go go entirely off-topic, but?....I hadn't thought of this in decades. Your posting just prompted me to recall being about ten (which would about the time I'd finished reading "Lord of the Rings" for about the tenth time)when I happily found a copy of the parody "Bored of the Rings".

    In the parody, one of the terrors that the band-of-the-ring encounters is the Jolly Green Giant (yup, the frozen food fellow). the Jolly Green Giant is addicted to bad puns concerning vegatables; they finally flee in complete desperation, as he pursues them, bellowing "I want to make PEAS with you!".

    I think that was the first time I realized what a pun was.....and I thought it was so utterly and captivatingly funny that I spent the next week searching out the slightest opportunity to insert it into any conversation going on in my family's house. I recall my father's finally sitting 10 year-old me down and grimly explaining that, yes, it was a "funny joke"....but saying a joke 54 times a day didn't make it even funnier (to the five members of our small-ish family). In fact, my doing so made the joke distinctly UN-funny, in addition to making me a bore whom everybody avoided.

    I recall being profoundly shocked upon being told this. I told his mother about it, and she (for once) agreed with him.

    Funny to recall that just now. Today's my birthday, so it's nice to realize that, however socially inept I might be nowadays, I have, at least, somewhat improved over the years.

    More to your point?...In his vegetables-book, "Tender", the ever-wry Nigel Slater writes "Peas do like a tablespoon of butter when they're cooked, but increasingly I find that they also lap up melted bacon fat. It's a pukka marriage...."

    Thanks for the obviously evocative posting,

    david Terry


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