Spaghetti with Tuna, Garbanzos, Orange and Fennel

This was Monday’s dinner. It’s good any time of the year, but it’s especially nice in the fall and winter (or when you didn’t have time to go to the grocery store) because it relies mostly on pantry staples. The only fresh produce you need is an orange and a handful of parsley. It’s also a great weeknight meal because you can prepare the sauce in the amount of time it takes to make the spaghetti. The combination may sound odd if you’ve never had it before, but the flavors really work together. This is also an instance where I think a whole-grain pasta is preferable to a white pasta. The nutty flavor of the whole grain really enhances everything else that’s going on.

Spaghetti with Tuna, Garbanzos, Orange and Fennel (adapted from Quick from Scratch – Pasta)
  • one small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • zest of one orange
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (I like things peppery so I lean towards 1/2 teaspoon – I don’t actually measure the pepper in this)
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes (I can usually only find them in the huge 28 oz. can – freeze the rest for marinara sauce)
  • 1 can italian tuna in olive oil*
  • 1 large handful fresh, chopped italian parsley
  • 3/4 pound whole-grain spaghetti

Prepare spaghetti in boiling, salted water according to package directions – reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Heat olive oil over medium-low flame. Saute onion until soft and translucent (but not browned), about 5 minutes. Add orange zest and fennel seeds. Cook one minute more and add crushed tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in garbanzos, tuna and parsley and 1/4 cup of pasta water. Immediately remove from heat and toss with hot pasta. If the sauce is too thick for your taste, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of pasta water.

*The original recipe I started with called for a can of italian tuna with all of the oil added to the dish. This to me is a matter of personal preference. I’ve also made it with albacore tuna in water (drained) and that works too. It’s obviously a richer dish with the dark tuna & extra oil…