This was going to be a salsa cruda pasta, one I make several times every summer. A salsa cruda (uncooked sauce) is perfect for warm weather cooking, because all that gets cooked is the pasta. It warms the other ingredients, causing their fragrances and flavors to blossom. The other ingredients, in turn, cool the pasta a bit. Your meal is warm, but not hot – perfect for warm weather dining. And your kitchen doesn’t overheat either, since you’re only cooking the pasta.
Except when I went to pick up a few ingredients I needed, there were beautiful little red potatoes in the produce department. Grape tomatoes were on sale, looking inviting. Sticking with the red theme, I grabbed a red onion. And just like that, my planned pasta dinner had morphed into a potato salad, with canned Italian tuna, marinated artichoke hearts and capers. Parsley, lemon juice and zest, and minced garlic joined the party, too.
Canned tuna is a big deal in Italy. When you try it, you’ll see why. Packed in olive oil, it has chunks of tuna with the structure of the flesh still evident, unlike the nearly ground quality of most canned tunas. And it is delicious. Spain is also a major producer of beautiful canned tuna.
The potato salad comes together in about the time it takes to cook the potatoes. You prep everything else in the serving bowl as they come to a boil and cook to just tender. As soon as they’re barely cool enough to touch, you cut them up and stir them into the salad. Done. This recipe served three of us as a light dinner. It can serve four to six people as a show-stealing side.
Italian Tuna Artichoke Potato Salad
Serves 3 as a light dinner or lunch
1-1/2 pounds red new potatoes (or fingerlings, if you want to be fancy)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 6-ounce can Italian tuna packed in olive oil
1 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, bigger pieces sliced in half
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
zest and juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons juice)
2 tablespoons capers, drained but not rinsed
2 tablespoons good olive oil (plus more as needed)
1/2 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley, lightly packed
1. Scrub potatoes and trim away any bit of the stem. put in a pot and cover with by 2 inches with cold water. Salt generously and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are just cooked, 10 to 15 minutes. When you can pierce them easily with a knife tip, they’re done. Drain in a colander and set it in the top of the pot to let them cool until you can just handle them.
2. Meanwhile, add the tuna with its oil to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, except the parsley and olive oil, and stir gently with a wooden spoon to combine. Depending on their size, halve or quarter the cooked potatoes and add them to the bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper, drizzle on 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then stir gently to combine. If potatoes look spectacularly dry, drizzle on a little more oil – I added another tablespoon. Sprinkle the parsley over everything and stir to combine (do I have to say gently again?).
3. Taste and adjust seasonings. You’ll probably have to salt it some more – potatoes soak the stuff up. Serve. Be prepared to have people salting it even more. Again with the potatoes and salt.
Kitchen Notes and More Recipes from Blue Kitchen:
More crudas. This dish is sort of the love child of this pasta dish that we make several times in the summer and this deconstructed Italian potato salad. As soon as our basil and tomato plants start producing, this tomato basil salsa cruda is a regular on our table. Of course, pesto is the quintessential salsa cruda. Here are some we’ve done: Fettuccine with Pecan Pesto; Cilantro-Parsley Pesto; Sage Pecan Pesto and even Kale Lemon Pesto. So get in the kitchen and don’t cook.