Linguine with Lemon, Green Beans, Tuna, and Toasted Breadcrumbs

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

A wonderful winter meal you can make in under 20 minutes!

Like all the recipes I write about, this dish depends on the quality of the ingredients, in particular, the pasta. While many people don’t realize it, different cuts of pasta from the same producer will have eating characteristics, textures, and flavors all their own. I love the linguine we have right now at the Deli—made with the organic heirloom Senatore Capelli wheat—from Pastificio Rustichella. The Peduzzi family has been making artisan pasta in the Abruzzese town of Pianella on Italy’s west coast since 1924. Thinking back to the Scott Bader Commonwealth, Rustichella d’Abruzzo is also now about to be 100 years old! Working with super high-quality grain; cold water mixing (it takes longer, but protects the flavor and integrity of the grain—we do the same for bread baking at the Bakehouse); bronze-die extrusion (to get that critical rough surface that absorbs the sauce); and then slow, low temperature drying over a period of about 50 hours (instead of six to eight hours at higher temperature as is done with “modern” pasta—the high temps result in brittle pasta that’s not properly dried). You really can, absolutely, taste the difference. You’ll smell it too—your whole kitchen will be perfumed by the wheat cooking in the pot!

To get the dish going, break fresh green beans in half and cook slowly in a good bit of extra virgin olive oil with just a bit of sea salt. If you like garlic you can add a clove, peeled and gently bruised, as well. Cook slowly for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then to keep the beans from sticking. They should be cooked through and softened so that the oil has been absorbed a bit into the middle of the bean. You can do this step in advance and just leave the beans to sit in the oil overnight, or all day. (They’ll be even more flavorful if you do—it just requires thinking further ahead than I often do.) Credit to Tammie for reminding me how good green beans can be when we cook them this way.

While the beans are cooking, you can bring a big pot of fresh water to boil. Salt liberally (it should taste like seawater). Cut half of a lemon into very small pieces and, when the beans are tender, add it to the pan and cook for a few more minutes to soften it. Check for salt and pepper and adjust as needed. When the linguine is almost but not quite done, raise the heat on the pan with the green beans, and stir in a spoonful or two of the pasta-cooking water to bind the sauce. When the linguine is almost al dente, lift it gently with tongs and place it in the pot with the olive oil, green beans, and lemon. Crumble in some high-quality tuna—I’m a big fan of the Yellowfin Tuna we get from the Ortiz family in the Spanish Basque Country. (If you want to get some extraordinary tastes of Spain, consider going with Zingerman’s Food Tours to the Canary Islands next year—reports from our advance scouts sound amazing!) Gently stir the pot and cook for a couple minutes so that the pasta takes in the other flavors.

Lift the linguine with the tongs into warm bowls. Top with a good bit of freshly grated toasted bread crumbs (You can just run dry toasted Bakehouse bread through your grater!) Add a bit of extra virgin olive oil on top and a few red pepper flakes (I love the Korean red pepper we get from Épices de Cru) and eat it while it’s hot. In under 20 minutes, you’ll have a world-class meal on your table. Eat and enjoy. Delizioso!