Yesterday would have been Lanie Cecula’s 62nd birthday. Her sister Jamie is one of my closest friends and Lanie was a part of my extended family. An artist who lived in a Soho loft before that was cool – in the days of freight elevators and dark hallways in buildings like hers – Lanie was as unique as her creations.
From her whimsical dolls
to the porcelain delicate egg she gave me
to her incredible sculptural pieces
Lanie had an imagination that awed me and many others whose brains are more tilted toward the right. She died of ovarian cancer earlier this year, cared for in her last months by devoted family and friends.
When Jamie began telling me about this recipe, a favorite of Lanie’s, I had to laugh. I had never seen Lanie cook. Although she enjoyed good food, Lanie wasn’t someone who spent a lot of time in the kitchen. But as I understood what was involved – few ingredients and short, simple preparation – it made sense. And when you see how beautiful the pasta looks at the end, you’ll see why it would appeal to an artist, particularly one who lived steps from New York’s Little Italy. This is no tuna noodle casserole. As befits Lanie and her special gifts, this dish is way more elegant – and quicker to prepare too!
In celebration of Lanie’s life and art, here is my version of her pasta with tuna.
Pappardelle with Tuna, Garlic, and Parsley
Servings – 2 Cost – $4.00
- 4 ounces pappardelle (wide pasta) – linguine or spaghetti also work
- 1-5 ounce can of tuna, preferably packed in oil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (either drained from the tuna or separate if your tuna is packed in water)
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- 2-3 heaping tablespoons of finely chopped parsley (preferably Italian or flat leaf)
- Salt (preferably kosher or sea) and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon capers, rinsed (optional)
- Cutting board
- Garlic press (optional)
- Small bowl
- Medium bowl
- Boil water for pasta.
- Drain the tuna, saving the oil if it is oil-packed.
- Chop the parsley.
- Either press the garlic or smash each clove with the side of a knife and then finely chop it.
- Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook it al dente, meaning that it is done but still slightly firm and definitely not yet so soft that it is mushy.
- While the pasta is cooking and when it is almost done, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then sauté the garlic for about 30 seconds, just until it is softened. Add the tuna with the stove on low and cook for just a minute or two until the tuna is heated. Turn off the heat.
- When the pasta is done, drain it, reserving about ¼ cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the tuna and garlic. Top with salt and pepper, plus any red pepper flakes and/or capers if you’re using them. Add the chopped parsley and mix.
Serve with a green salad. And if you’re looking for an unusually tasty brown bag lunch, make some extra and take the leftovers to work in a plastic container.