Chargrilled Tuna With Spaghetti Puttanesca And Salsa Verde

The colder evenings and the falling leaves remind us that we are well into the autumn season. With the finer, drier weather over the past couple of weeks we are getting to experience something of a summer that we desperately missed this year. When I went to Galway market yesterday and picked up some end of season tuna I was inspired by Mediterranean ideas and the freshness of soft herbs, and the simplicity of Italian cooking in letting the quality of the ingredients sing.

From one fish to another, please don’t be put off by the anchovies that appear in both the salsa verde and puttanesca recipes. It simply acts as a salty seasoning in much the same way as fish sauce does in Thai cooking. The final result will not end up with a “fishy” taste I promise. Olives also tend to be another of those ingredients that people love or loathe. Again, in the puttanesca sauce they act much like a seasoning in the same way as the anchovy. Try it and you might be converted. If the idea still seems abhorrent to you then leave them out. Food should be accessible and the spaghetti dish will still be an excellent accompaniment to the tuna without the olives.

Each of these are stand-alone recipes and can be used in different ways. The salsa verde is excellent with grilled fish or meat, with potatoes, or as a sauce for vegetables. The puttanesca is a dish on its own and is a quick delicious supper topped with Parmesan shavings and fresh torn basil. I’ve added the crushed fennel as I think it works well with the fish. Tuna is a super fish with a meaty texture and needs to be treated in much the same way as a good steak. It really needs to be cooked rare to prevent it from going very dry. Even if you eat your steak cooked more than medium rare I implore you avoid that with tuna. As with a steak it depends on the size of the tuna, the heat of the pan etc. Here I had very large tuna fillets, about 250g each and were about 1 inch thick. I cooked for 2 of us but these measurements serve four.


Serves 4

Salsa Verde

  • ½ clove of garlic finely grated
  • The zest of one lemon
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • A large handful each of basil, flat leaf parsley, and mint
  • 4-5 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper for seasoning

Puttanesca Sauce

  • 300 g dried spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1tsp fennel seeds crushed
  • 100g approx. of pitted black olives torn in half
  • 250g of good quality ripe cherry tomatoes cut in half


  • 4 x 200g good quality sustainably caught tuna fillets
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper for seasoning


For the Salsa Verde

I really think this recipe benefits from hand chopping to allow the flavours to mingle but if you are short on time or just don’t want to pop everything into your food processor and pulse until chopped and combined

  1. Put the mustard and vinegar into a bowl large enough to take all of the finished sauce and stir to combine
  2. Finely chop all of the herbs and set aside. Finely chop the anchovies and the capers, adding the garlic and the lemon zest.
  3. Combine the anchovies, capers, garlic and lemon mix with the herbs and continue chopping until the salsa is fully combined. Don’t be too concerned about everything being perfectly and finely chopped, this is a rustic sauce after all.
  4. Add the salsa verde to the mustard and vinegar in the bowl and slowly stir through the olive oil. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge until ready to serve



For the Puttanesca Sauce

  1. Place a medium sized saucepan over a high heat and add the olive oil.
  2. Once hot, turn the heat down to medium and add the anchovy and garlic and stir together cooking for approx. 1 minute until the garlic starts turn golden. Add the crushed fennel seeds and cook for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add the olives and cook for approx. 2 minutes before adding the cherry tomatoes. Pour a splash of cold water into the pan, cover with a lid, turn the heat down to low and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, taste and season to taste. Set aside with the lid on.


The tuna and bringing the dish together

  1. Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to the boil and add the spaghetti, cooking until al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, put your griddle pan on a high heat until very hot. Pour a little olive oil over the tuna fillets and season with plenty of salt and black pepper. Place gently onto the sizzling pan and lightly press down with a spatula to get the griddle marks. Cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and leave to rest.
  3. Add the puttanesca sauce to the spaghetti and put in the centre of a pasta bowl or plate. Top with the tuna; add a spoonful of the salsa verde and serve.


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