''One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating'' - Luciano Pavarotti.
For the 1988 Metropolitan Opera Cook Book (worth buying for the photos alone) Pavarotti contributed two recipes - both pasta, naturally. I've owned a copy for a couple of years but never cooked from it, so I thought Pavarotti's Pennoni al Tonno might be a good start. Legend has it the great tenor had bowls of tuna pasta secreted around the wings whenever he performed at Covent Garden. But whatever Pavarotti ate, he clearly went back for seconds, which has to be some sort of recommendation.
Here's a close-up of the recipe:
All those tins and packets took me back to student days, but at least it looks simple.
London clearly isn't as well stocked as the Upper West Side - I couldn't find the specified pennoni anywhere. So I bought the smaller version, the ubiquitous penne. More surprisingly, I couldn't find plain, unadulterated tomato juice, so I settled for passata (sieved tomatoes) instead. And because bottled French anchovies are cheaper and nicer than the tinned ones, I substituted them in too. Sorry Luciano.
I considered the little flat tins of tuna in olive oil from Spain, but that would have taken the costs up to gourmet level, so I settled for the regular sort. I didn't realise they still made garlic salt, but as you can see, I lucked out. Ye olde 80s shopping basket:
Step one - I chopped the onion as delicately as I could manage through my tears and sautéed it very gently for about 15 minutes:
then added in the tuna (drained) and the chopped anchovies:
then after a couple of minutes, the tomato paste, passata and garlic salt:
Here's how it looked after 15 minutes simmering on a low heat, the ingredients now all beautifully blended, the flavours super-concentrated. Very salty at this point; it really needs the pasta to tone it down:
I cooked the penne at the same time:
then mixed it in with the sauce. It makes an amazing amount -the recipe says 6 portions, but 8 is more like it:
and here's the finished article, topped with grated parmesan. It's a terrific recipe, rib-sticking and saltily intense. I'd never have guessed chucking a few tins into a saucepan could produce something quite so delicious. Pavarotti could apparently polish off a whole kilo of pasta in one sitting (that's this recipe times two). I could manage only a small plate:
Here's the great tenor before he discovered pasta:
and here he is cooking for Peter Ustinov on German TV. Why? Search me. But it proves he knew his way around a kitchen.