Last summer, I spent a few days camping with my friend Mikel and a crazy Frenchman he picked up in Austin named Dimitri. The crazy Frenchman prepared impressive meals for us nightly on a propane Coleman stove, taking frequent breaks to smoke cigarettes and drink cans of Budweiser. One night he made an interesting melange of rice with mayonnaise, tuna, canned green beans sauteed in garlic, and tomatoes. His ability to improvise with ingredients and make crappy food taste amazing was remarkable. He called the dish a classic French summer salad. (We may have furrowed our brows incredulously, but then, we were not raised in France.) I guess the point is that mayonnaise, olive oil, tuna and tomatoes work really well together. To boot, this is the easiest thing in the world to make. You prepare some pasta, throw all the tonnato ingredients in the processor, stir everything together, and you’re set.
Tonnato is a classic Italian sauce (from Piedmont) whose surprising underpinnings are tuna and mayonnaise. It is traditionally served on cold, sliced veal. We won’t be doing that.
Pasta with Tonnato and Tomato
10 oz canned tuna (most recipes recommend oil-packed Italian tuna but I used your classic can of tuna and it was just dandy)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs capers, drained
1 Tbs dijon mustard
2 Tbs fresh, minced parsley
salt + pepper to taste
2-3 large heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 lb pasta of choice (fusilli used here)
For the tonnato, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, capers, mustard, anchovies and parsley and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. In a large bowl, blend pasta, tomatoes and sauce. This can be served cold, as a pasta salad, or hot.
Sauce can be prepared in advance. As with many things, flavor improves if allowed to sit for awhile.