This pasta celebrates the intense flavours of southern Italy: tuna, capers and the herbs of the Aeolian Islands bring summer to your table - with a sea breeze.
Culinary melting pot
North of Sicily, in the middle of the Tyrhenian Sea, lie the Lipari or Aeolian Islands, named after the wind god Aeolus. Since settlement, fish has been the main source of food, along with legumes and vegetables. And each changing reign enriched the local cuisine. Honey and salted ricotta, for example, are a Greek heritage. The Romans taught fish preservation and introduced chestnut trees. With the Spaniards came tomatoes, potatoes and cocoa. The Arabs brought spices such as anise and saffron, along with citrus fruits. And the Venetians cultivated wine on the islands.
Islands of herbs and capers
The islands themselves, like Sicily, are rich in herbs such as rosemary, oregano, basil, mint, sage and fennel. Caper bushes are also among the typical plants. In the past, they were also believed to have healing properties. Even today, caper berries are a central ingredient in the kitchen. The traditional bread of the islands, for example, is topped with cherry tomatoes, anchovies, onions and capers. The berries are actually the buds of the plant. After flowering, fruits (cucunciú) form. These look like small cucumbers. Lizards love them and thus spread the seeds across the islands.
How to desalt capers
Caper berries are not pickled in Italy but preserved in salt. If you only rinse this briefly, the capers will remain very salty. But since people in the Lipari Islands like to eat more of them, they have developed other methods of desalting. The simpler one: Place the capers in cold water for 24 hours, changing the water frequently. The more elaborate one: boil the capers in water for 4 minutes, then put them in cold water for another 12 hours, changing the water more often.
Pasta with tuna and capers from the aeolian islands
- 320 g pasta
- ½ onion
- 1 tablespoon capers, desalted
- 25 g raisins
- 10 olives, green
- 25 g pine nuts
- 200 g tuna, in oil
- 200 g date tomatoes
- wild fennel
- 1 handful basil, leaves
- 5 mint, leaves
- olive oil, extra virgin
- Chop the onion and sauté in a pan with a little oil until translucent. Add the capers prepared as above, the raisins, the olives chopped as desired and the pine nuts and sauté.
- Then add the tuna and the chopped tomatoes and fennel. Season with a little salt and simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the mint and basil leaves at the end.
- While the sauce is cooking, cook the pasta al dente and strain. Immediately toss well in the pan with the sauce and serve.