Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls

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When I was a little girl in Casablanca, my parents sent me to L’ecole Jeanne d’arc, a private Catholic school for girls. Every day, I would come home at midday to eat lunch with my family. More often than not, when the weather was fine, we would eat on the balcony of our huge apartment. It was shaded by swaying palm trees and overlooked the park that sat in the middle of La Place Bel Air.

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My two older brothers and I loved all of Maman’s cooking, but we had a special fondness for her Spicy Tuna Spaghetti. During Ramadan, we would eat our lunch at school. I loved it when Maman would scramble the leftover tuna spaghetti with egg to make an omelet and put it in a crusty baguette. My kids turned up their noses when I told them, but I promise it’s way better than a peanut butter sandwich!

We had forgotten all about Spicy Tuna Spaghetti. But a few years ago, my brother Moise was in the kitchen and he made it for all of us. It has become a beloved family favorite again!

We shared the recipe because this dish has all the right notes. Spicy red chili flakes, sweet, tart, tangy tomato sauce, briny bites of tuna, salty capers and Kalamata olives, all contrasting with the toothsome texture of al dente spaghetti. And of course, this perfect pantry recipe is a great mid-week dinner and a great way to use up some of your chametz before Passover!

Spicy Tuna Sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 5oz cans of tuna in oil
1 6oz can tomato paste
8 oz of water
3 tablespoons kalamata olives, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Red pepper chili flakes, to taste (1 teaspoon)
1 pound spaghetti or angel hair pasta, cooked al dente
Or your favorite pasta, cooked according to package directions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat.

  2. Add onions and sauté until they start to become golden.

  3. Add garlic and sauté for a minute or two.

  4. Add the canned tuna with the oil.

  5. Use a wooden spatula and break the tuna into small pieces.

  6. Sauté for a few minutes until tuna liquids start to evaporate.

  7. Add tomato paste and sauté on medium.

  8. Mix for three minutes until tomato paste begins to simmer.

  9. Add water and stir well.

  10. Lower heat to a slow simmer.

  11. Add olives, capers, salt, black pepper and pepper flakes.

  12. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.

  13. Serve over pasta and serve immediately.

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