Sunday, March 3, 2013

Green Tuna and Noodles

As part of my diet during my recent weight loss, I had to find high-flavor, low fat alternatives to cheese sauces. That's when pesto re-entered my cooking repertoire.

Pesto goes well with just about any protein, as well as pasta. If you want to make your own pesto, you can always change-up the traditional basil and pine nut base and use a different herb or nut. A cilantro and pecan pesto goes really well with grilled steaks, for example. (Yep, that's a teaser for a future blog post during the Summer.) I keep a jar of Mezzetta Homemade Style Basil Pesto in my refrigerator for use when I'm not inclined to make my own.

During Lent, the Catholic girl in me is always compelled to do fish for Friday dinner, so this past week I made a tuna noodle casserole. Growing up, tuna noodle casserole meant throwing in a can of Campbell's Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. For this version I use [you guessed it] pesto as a healthier alternative. I also use Albacore tuna in this recipe instead of the traditional chunk light tuna, as it has a meatier texture that is more like chicken, and I think that works with the pesto better.

As with most of my recipes, this is designed for two people, but it can be easily expanded. Also note that you can use either sun dried or fresh tomatoes in this recipe. I like the fresh tomatoes, but my husband doesn't care for fresh tomatoes in this recipe (it's something about the texture of the tomatoes after they've been heated), so this time around I used finely chopped sun dried tomatoes in order to get some of that tomato flavor without the large pieces. If you use sun dried, make sure you use the kind that is not packed in oil.

My husband selected a Grape Creek 2010 Pinot Grigio from our wine refrigerator for this meal, and it paired nicely with the tuna and herb flavors.

April's Tuna & Noodles with Pesto

4 ounces Ronzoni Healthy Harvest whole grain wide noodles
1 pouch (6.4 oz) Starkist Albacore White Tuna in Water
4 tablespoons (divided) pesto
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4-inch-wide pieces
3 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 ounces Nature Sweet Cherub Tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise, or 1/2 ounce Bella Sun Luci California Sun Dried Tomato Halves, finely chopped
Salt to taste (optional)
Chopped parsley to garnish (fresh or dried parsley will work)

Prepare the noodles according to package directions.

While your noodles are cooking, put 3 tablespoons of pesto into a large, non-stick frying pan or saute pan, and preheat it over medium-low heat. When the oil is ready, add the zucchini and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until it just starts to get tender. Turn the heat down to low. Add the mushrooms, and if you are using sun dried tomatoes, add them as well, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. (If you are using fresh tomatoes, those get added later). Add the tuna and 1 tablespoon of pesto, and carefully stir to combine everything and get it all heated through, about another 2 minutes (try not to break up the tuna too much). Add salt to taste, if desired, and if you're using fresh tomatoes, add them now and just stir them in briefly. (You don't want the tomatoes to cook too much and lose their shape--it's nice if they remain on the firm side, so they are added at the end.)

Stir the noodles into the pan so that they are evenly incorporated with the sauce. Sprinkle a little parsley on top and enjoy!

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