Noodles with Tuna and Peas ("Tuna Pea Wiggle")

By • June 18, 2015 3 Comments

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Author Notes: The one thing my father made consistently over the years—I guess you could call it his signature dish—involved a box of Tuna Helper and a bag of frozen peas. He called it "Tuna Pea Wiggle" and he only made it once a year, when my whole family went sailing for a couple of days each summer.

Now that my sister and I are both grown, with families of our own, these sailing trips are pretty much impossible to coordinate. I miss everything about them. I can't recreate dishwashing by the light of the moon, but thankfully I can still have Tuna Pea Wiggle. Here, I've used fancy oil-packed tuna and added some morels as a nod to my father's high/low tastes, but the soul of the dish remains the same.
Merrill Stubbs

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Serves 8

  • 1 cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 7 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 pint morel mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 12 ounces fusilli or other short pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups peas (frozen, or fresh peas that have been shelled and blanched)
  • Two 5-ounce cans good, olive-oil packed tuna, drained and flaked into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Stir together the breadcrumbs, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, stirring once, until breadcrumbs are fragrant and golden brown. Set aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add shallot, celery, and mushrooms with a generous pinch of salt and cook until the vegetables soften and start to brown, about 5 minutes. If they start to brown too quickly, add a little water to the pan.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until the flour softens and melts. Turn up heat to medium and add the milk, whisking to break up any flour lumps. Stir constantly until sauce is thickened and bubbly, about 4 minutes. Turn heat down to low and season well with salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon zest, nutmeg, cream, and Parmesan and stir well. Keep warm.
  4. Next, cook the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, add the peas and tuna to the cream sauce and stir through. When the pasta is al dente, drain it, saving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir. If the sauce seems thick, add a little of the reserved cooking water. Taste for seasoning, then add lemon juice and parsley and stir again. Serve immediately, sprinkling each plate with some of the breadcrumbs.

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