food. family. life.

mixed herb & garlic olive oil poached tuna

Preserving tuna in cans is a classic convenience food preparation found here in the U.S. and in many other countries around the world like France, Spain, Greece and Italy.

Italy is known for preserving tuna in olive oil which seasons the fish as well as keeps it succulent and flavorful. Olive oil canned tuna differs greatly from the water packed variety. I was brought up eating Italian tuna preserved in olive oil and this is still my preference today.

Busy weeknights and even busier weekends made canned tuna a great pantry food to use in a quick meal preparation. The simplest form was a delicious sandwich Mammina Loreta made with olive oil canned tuna (oil from the can drained and discarded.)

Mammina put the olive oil canned tuna in a large bowl; then added her own olive oil, minced red onion, celery, celery leaves, fresh chopped parsley and some pepper to taste. I would mix this well with a fork and set it aside to rest.

We would then hollow out (remove some of the soft white center) fresh loaves of Italian bread from our local bakery and put spoonfuls of the seasoned olive oil tuna in the bread and drizzle more olive oil on top. The olive oil tuna would seep into the bread (her version of a pan bagnat) and the combination of the tuna with the bread’s soft center and thick, crunchy crust… pure food perfection.cucinadimammina_olive oil tuna_23

Imagine my wonder and surprise when I began going to school and watched the other children remove sandwiches from home that were made with tuna and mayonnaise on wonder bread from their lunch boxes.

What was this? This strange food that they called tuna?

I was quite surprised when the children said they never heard of olive oil tuna and I soon came to find out that their mayonnaise version was a sad comparison for my taste buds, both in flavor and texture.

I have never really taken to the mayonnaise version of tuna. You will always find multiple cans of tuna in my pantry; some packed in water and many cans of olive oil tuna for my different food preparation needs.

The store-bought varieties are wonderful options, but when I am looking for a unique and delicious tuna dish, I make my mixed herb & garlic olive oil poached tuna and serve it warm with warm sautéed vegetables, cold salads and pickled vegetables on the side.cucinadimammina_olive oil tuna_1

This dish is my version of salade-Nicoise, a delicious Provence (France) tuna and vegetable salad mixture. T

he main difference in my dish is the featured olive oil poached fresh tuna that is filled with fresh and delicious flavor from the herb and garlic infusion and a lovely soft texture.

I like to change out my warm and cold sides for this delicious tuna recipe using seasonally based vegetable side dishes and salads.


{aglio e olio alle erbe cartoccio tonno}

4 to 6 cups good quality olive oil

olive oil for serving

1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh sashimi grade tuna

2 thyme sprigs

2 rosemary branches

4 fresh bay leaves

1 small head of garlic, peeled (approx. 6-8 cloves)

1 bunch fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed

1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and trimmed

6-8 medium white potatoes, boiled and peeled

fresh flat leaf Italian parsley

white wine vinegar

olive oil

salt and pepper to tastecucinadimammina_olive oil tuna_5

{for the tuna}

One day prior to serving, take a large deep stockpot, combine the 4-6 cups of olive oil, thyme, rosemary, garlic cloves and bay leaves and place on medium low heat using an oil/candy thermometer to reach a maximum of 200 degrees fahrenheit for 10 minutes consistently.

Cool this oil mixture down, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the oil from the refrigerator (remove all the herbs and garlic cloves), put the thermometer in the stock pot and place on medium heat.

Heat the oil to 160 degrees fahrenheit consistent and keep it at this temperature. Remove the herbs and garlic cloves.cucinadimammina_olive oil tuna_7

Add in the tuna, check the oil to ensure it is deep enough to totally submerge the fish pieces.

Poach the tuna at 200 degrees for about 5 minutes or so (depending on the thickness of the tuna, this cook time and temperature will produce tuna that is cooked through to pink inside.)

Note: If you prefer the tuna’s center to be medium rare to rare; reduce and test the cooking time based on thickness of your tuna and the intensity of the heat stated here. You can test by poaching a small “test piece” of tuna and check the center, etc.

Remove the tuna immediately and set aside in a small plate (cover to keep warm.)

Discard the poaching oil at this point. If you prefer to keep the flavored oil, you can continue to cook it at this time by bringing it to a slow simmer for about 5-8 minutes, remove from the heat and let it cool.

Run this flavored poaching oil through a strainer to remove any bits and pieces. This flavor filled oil can be used for dressing the poached tuna when serving or for use in a wonderful vinaigrette for salad or sandwiches.cucinadimammina_olive oil tuna_19

{for the warm & cold sides}

Serve the warm poached tuna with my sautéed warm garlic green beans (parboil green beans until tender, sauté in garlic and olive oil and season to taste), garlic and olive oil sautéed warm spinach with lemon zest.

Use the boiled potatoes to make my white potato & parsley salad dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste*

* This potato salad is delicious served both warm or cold, it’s versatile and simple and we love to make it often in all seasons.

Note: Try serving this with cured olives, pickled vegetables and cucumbers, sauteed arugula or arugula salad, vegetable  and herb quinoa or steamed rice with olive oil and lemon zest.

Note: Photography provided by Annette L. Venditti

Buon Appetito!

cucinadimammina_olive oil tuna_9 

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