Christmas Eve Tuna Spaghetti
by Kiki Rosatti, Tastemaker in Residence
Italian Catholic families equate Holidays with Holy days. My Swedish meets Italian heritage comes alive with Christmas traditions that center around Christmas Eve, a Holy day that meant we could not eat meat. Each year my Nona (Italian grandmother) whipped up a batch of tuna fish spaghetti, made with a red sauce!
Our typical family sauce or sugo recipe is based around meat; a pork roast, beef roast, sausages, meatballs or whatever is on hand. Nona browned the meat with the tomato paste, sauce and whole tomatoes that simmered for hours to give the sugo its flavor. But for this Holy day, Nona substituted tuna instead of meat for our Christmas Eve dinner; at the time it was canned tuna. The secret was cooking the paste with the tuna for about 10 minutes before adding the sauce and whole tomatoes. The result is mouthwatering and now my 10-year-olds' favorite dish. It's not fishy at all, just delicious.
While my siblings tended to poopoo it, as we became young adults I always had a batch made up for those who wanted to share this special twist. Now that we are a bit older, they too look forward to this traditional meal. I make the sauce early in the afternoon on Christmas Eve and cook it for about 2-3 hours; then I let it rest while we go to mass. We come home and throw some fresh pasta in boiling water and within minutes our meal is complete.
This meal not only carries on the family tradition, it is a gift we are giving our children that honors our heritage, and the people who instilled in us. This is what Christmas is all about. While most of my grandparents, aunts and uncles have passed, we bring them to mind and heart and feel their presence as we sit around our spirited table each Christmas Eve.