Paccheri with Fresh Tuna Ragu: Recipe from Sicily
Fresh tuna has been fished and eaten in Sicily since the time of the Phoenicians and possibly longer! This easy to make paccheri with fresh tuna ragu is a delicious example of the many ways Sicilians pair pasta and tuna.
Mezzi paccheri con ragu di tonno fresco.
Fresh tuna has been part of the Sicilian diet since Phoenician times and possible longer. This is because Atlantic Bluefin tuna migrate past Sicily every year in May and June to reach their spawning grounds in the Eastern Mediterranean and then return again after spawning. Tuna fishing has, therefore, been an important seasonal economic activity on the island for hundreds of years.
Recipes for pasta with fresh tuna.
Needless to say, there are many delicious Italian recipes for fresh tuna. The simplest is to eat it raw (tuna tartare), which I really like, or just grill it. Tuna has a darker meatier flesh than most fish and no small bones. So it’s usually sold in ‘steaks’, which are perfect on the grill. However, pasta with fresh tuna is definitely one of my favourite ways to eat this fish.
As you can imagine there are also quite a few recipes for fresh tuna and pasta. Here on The Pasta Project, I have already published one called pasta all’eoliana from the Aeolian Islands. This includes capers (which the islands are famous for), olives and peperoncino. Another yummy pasta with tuna recipe is mafaldine with tuna. That one has pine nuts, raisins and sun dried tomatoes. All typical Sicilian ingredients.
This pasta with fresh tuna ragu.
Mezzi paccheri with fresh tuna ragu is yet another delicious way to enjoy pasta with fresh tuna Sicilian style The sauce contains fresh tuna, of course, datterini tomatoes, onions and mint! Then I grated some lemon zest over the pasta before serving.
Like so many Italian pasta recipes, this mezzi paccheri with fresh tuna ragu contains just a few fresh ingredients and doesn’t take long to make! In fact, by the time you have boiled the water and cooked the pasta, the sauce is ready. Then just mix the two together and serve! A perfect summer pasta dish!
Other main ingredients.
Tomatoes: For this recipe I used datterini (date) tomatoes from Sicily. If you can’t find the same tomatoes, you can use other small date or cherry tomatoes. It’s important that they are ripe and a deep red colour.
Lemon: The lemon I grated for the zest was from Sorrento. Obviously not everyone can find Sorrento lemons. Just be sure that you use an organic lemon with edible peel.
Onions: In addition, the recipe I followed called for a red Tropea onion. These onions come from Calabria and are much loved by Italians as they are slightly sweet. Other types of red onions would also work well.
The pasta I used.
Finally, the pasta I used was organic mezzi paccheri from a small pasta maker in Gragnano, near Naples called Pastificio Sorrentino. Pastificio means pasta maker in Italian. This company produces 2 ranges of pasta.
One is sold under the L’Oro di Gragnano label and is a certified Pasta di Gragnano IGP. The other is a bio range made with organic durum wheat semolina and it’s sold under the L’Anima di Gragnano label. The latter is the type of pasta we ate with our fresh tuna ragu!
I actually was given this mezzi paccheri by Pastificio Sorrentino when I was in Gagnano last month at the invitation of another pasta company called Pastificio dei Campi.
Pasta di Gragnano IGP is for pasta what DOC is for wine!
You can read all about Gragnano and what Pasta di Gragnano IGP means in my post about my visit. But in short, Gragnano is a town located close to Naples. It’s been a centre of dried pasta production for 500 years and pasta carrying the Pasta di Gragnano IGP certification is made under strict production and ingredient quality regulations. It’s like saying DOC for wine!
What is paccheri pasta?
Paccheri pasta is large pasta tubes traditionally from Naples and Gragnano. This pasta is very popular in Southern Italy and often served with seafood. Mezzi paccheri are half sized paccheri. So, not as long as the traditional tubes. I love both types.
You can use either for this recipe. I would definitely recommend the organic pasta from Pastificio Sorrentino. It was excellent. My Sicilian hubby was really impressed by it too!
If that isn’t available, look for any paccheri or mezzi paccheri with the Pasta di Gragnano IGP certificate. Among the companies I know who make paccheri or mezzi paccheri are Pastificio dei Campi, Di Martino, Afeltra, Liguori, Gentile and Faella. There are more, of course, plus some excellent producers of good quality pasta in other parts of Italy.
Other pasta shapes you can use.
As an alternative to paccheri, you can also make this pasta with fresh tuna ragu using mezze maniche, giant penne (pennoni) or even rigatoni. In Sicily they also make it with busiate. Whichever pasta you use, I’m sure you’ll love this Sicilian pasta recipe!
If you make this pasta recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. Please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Other seafood pasta recipes to try
- 10 Seafood Pasta Recipes from Italy for Christmas.
- 6 Italian Canned Tuna Pasta Recipes.
- Calamarata Pasta with Stewed Cuttlefish and Peas.
- Cavatelli pasta with peperoni cruschi (Senise peppers)
- Chifferi Elbow Pasta with Cannellini Beans and Tuna
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This fresh and delicious pasta with fresh tuna recipe from Sicily is easy to make and only takes the time you need to boil the water and cook the pasta! Perfect summer or weeknight meal!
- 360 g mezzi paccheri pasta (12-13oz) or paccheri, giant penne, rigatoni etc
- 350 g fresh tuna (12oz) 1-2 thick steaks
- 1-2 red onions I used Tropea onions
- 250 g datterini tomatoes (9oz)
- 1 lemon organic ( to zest)
- 1/2 glass dry white wine
- mint leaves
- salt for pasta and to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
- extra virgin olive oil
Put a pot of water onto boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to
the boil again.
Peel the red onion/s and slice into thin crescents. Cut the tuna into cubes, as in the photos. Wash the tomatoes, remove the stalk and cut them in half.
Pour olive oil into a large frying pan or skillet, add the red onion and sauté gently. Once the onion has softened, add the tomatoes and cook on a medium heat until they start to soften
too. Then turn the heat up, add the tuna and brown it for a couple of minutes turning frequently and then add the white wine. Allow the alcohol to evaporate. Turn the heat down.
Cook the pasta a minute less than al dente according to the instructions on the packet.
While the pasta is cooking (it usually takes about 10 minutes) season the tuna ragu with
salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes more. You will see that the tomato peel begin to come off on its own, you can remove the peel if you prefer with the help of a knife and fork. I didn’t remove it.
Add a little chopped fresh mint and cook the tuna sauce for a couple of minutes more.
If necessary, add 1/2 ladle of pasta cooking water if the sauce seems dry.
When the pasta is almost cooked, save a little of the cooking water and drain. Add the
pasta to the pan with the tuna ragu. Mix the sauce and the pasta together well and finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Adding a little pasta cooking water if you need it.
When the pasta is ready, remove the skillet from the heat and add some more chopped fresh
mint leaves, freshly ground black pepper and the grated zest of one lemon.
You can serve your mezzi paccheri with fresh tuna ragu with a drizzle of olive oil and some peperoncino flakes if desired.
This recipe can also be made with other steak fish such as swordfish. Whatever fish you use it’s important not to overcook it. Small cubes of fresh fish cook very quickly.