Finally managed to replicate one of the outstanding dishes at the great Soho Italian restaurant, Vasco & Piero’s Pavilion, on Poland Street. Given the prices at that unassuming temple to the food of Umbria, I’m chuffed to be able to make this one on my own (though their fish secondi, huge Negronis, and that all-but-vanished air of 1990s louche Soho, make it well worth the visit).
The key in this dish, since the tuna provides very little actual flavour – rather it’s all about texture, is to get umami and body in the sauce before the tuna shows up. Start by making a standard soffrito of onions, carrots and celery, and sweat them until all are soft, with a clove of garlic and some parsley going in at the end. Just for grins, I add a pepperoncino and a few Sichuan peppercorns; they (especially the latter) are definitively not part of the recipe at Vasco !
While the soffrito is softening, blanch a tomato for 10-20 seconds, remove the skin, and chop up, reserving the juices. Toss into the sauce, and simmer until the tomato has broken down. At this point, I add some fish stock – the gelatinous stuff in the photo (from a poached bream I made the day before). I also pour in a little white wine, and raise the heat to high. Reduce the mixture over heat, and add some salted capers, which have been soaked for 15 minutes to desalinate. Check for balance, it should have a slight sour edge, and I needed to add a little vinegar.
Put the chopped tuna in last, so it doesn’t overcook. Once the pasta (I’m using Voiello from Caserta, near Naples – current favourite over De Cecco or Barilla) is ready, place it in the pan, along with a little of the pasta cooking liquid and some olive oil. Agitate violently over a high burner, driving from the shoulders & hips, to get it all to mix, and serve with fresh parsley.
Vegetable was sprouting kale from Broadway Market, and the wine is an orange wine from Friuli’s Carso zone, Vodopivec. Pretty decent wine, but at the price worse value than La Mole (from Quarticello in Emilia Romagna), nor as exciting as the (more expensive) Ribolla Gialla (from Friuli’s Radikon) nor the austere reverential Breg (from Friuli’s Gravner).