Twice I’ve cooked with a woman named Paulo di Mauro in Marino, outside of Rome, where the Pope’s summer home is. She’s supposed to be the leading authority on classical Roman cuisine and both times she was cooking directly out of The Food of Rome and Lazio by Oretta Zanini de Vita. So the book is legit, and I can confirm that it’s awesome—I use it all the time. It’s where I picked out the idea for this pasta.
This pasta would be fine with ordinary Italian ingredients, but I’ve spent years finding and squirreling away high-quality shelf-stable ingredients, like Sicilian tomato paste—it’s intensely flavorful and solid like clay—and the $30-a-jar Sicilian tuna belly I used to make this recipe. My advice is to get out there, find this stuff, and lay some down in the pantry before the end of the world, because the better your ingredients, the better your end-times eating will be.
- 1 C dried porcini mushrooms
- + salt
- 2 T olive oil, plus a splash more to finish
- 2–3 T Sicilian tomato paste
- 1 12-oz can cherry tomatoes
- 1–2 T Calabrian chili pepper condiment
- 1/2 C tuna packed in oil
- 1 lb large-diameter rigatoni, or similar dried Italian pasta
- + chopped parsley
Combine the porcini with enough water to cover in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil then drop the heat to a simmer and cook until the porcini are tender—about 20–30 minutes.
Drain the porcini, reserving their cooking liquid in the pot you will eventually cook your pasta in. Top off with enough water to cook the pasta. (I don’t use gallons of water, just enough to cover the pasta by an inch or two.) Add a large pinch of salt, and put it on the stove to boil.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. After a minute, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4–5 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and the liquid they’re packed in, the chili condiment, and the drained porcini. Drop the pasta into the boiling water, while you cook the tomatoes and mushrooms for 5–10 minutes, just to bring the flavors together.
Boil the rigatoni a minute shy of the recommended cooking time, then drain. Add the tuna to the sauce just before you’re about to add the pasta. The tuna comes fully cooked in the jar, so you don’t want to hammer it or else it’ll become really chalky.
Add the pasta to the sauce, and cook, tossing and stirring, until the pasta is well-coated in the sauce. Add a splash more oil, toss once again, and serve. If you’re making this before the apocalypse, or if your herb garden has survived unscathed, a bit of chopped fresh parsley would be a welcome addition.