Spicy Orecchiette with Tuna, Lemons, Peas and Crunchy Breadcrumb Topping

big bowl of pastaWhen I was growing up, my mom was at the culinary forefront of our neighbourhood. While other moms were making Jello, she was creating whipped jello molds, a raspberry jello and frozen raspberry concoction that had sour cream or whipped cream folded into it. Kind of looked like this. While other moms were making KD, my mom was making macaroni salad. Elbow macaroni, coated in mayonnaise, chopped celery, a squeeze of lemon juice, and, if she was feeling extra fancy, she’d toss in some diced red peppers.

Then, when I went to camp, I had my mind blown by what else you could do with boxed mac and cheese. On overnight camping trips, dinner was a delicacy known as  “Tripper’s Stew.” We’d be sent out into the woods to collect firewood. Some of the campers would actually use that time to hide and smoke cigarettes! With the campfire blazing we’d boil up a few boxes of Kraft Dinner. Once the noodles were cooked, in went the powdered cheese, and a few cans of tuna, peas and corn. It was my favourite camp meal.

When I saw Serious Eats contributor Lauren Rothman’s recipe for Spicy Orecchiette With Tuna, Peas, and Lemon, I was instantly transported back to my summer camp days. This is a more grownup version of Tripper’s Stew. It uses tuna packed in olive oil, (Italian if you can find it), rather than the dry water-packed tuna of my childhood. Red pepper flakes and garlic give it some zip and lemon zest wakes up all the flavours. I adapted Lauren’s recipe by adding a toasted lemon breadcrumb topping to give the dish a welcome crunch. My final adaptation was to add some coarsely grated Parmesan cheese. Please don’t yell at me and tell me that pasta dishes containing fish are not topped with cheese. I already know the Italian rules, I just don’t care. It’s delicious with cheese.3 stacked bowlsgather everything from the pantryThe breadcrumbs take a bit of extra time, but I think that the textural contrast they make to the chewy pasta, makes them worth the additional effort. making bread crumbs 1making bread crumbs 2crispy golden crumbsI made this last week when I was alone, so I ate it for dinner, 3 nights in a row. It tasted better each night. I just warmed it in the microwave and then tossed in grated cheese to melt.

Click here to print recipe for Spicy Orichiette with Tuna, Lemons, Peas and Crunchy Breadcrumb Topping.

close up of pasta

4 thoughts on “Spicy Orecchiette with Tuna, Lemons, Peas and Crunchy Breadcrumb Topping

  1. Mom

    Your tuna macaroni post took me back to”The Good Old Days”I am craving your recipe.You forgot that I used to put celery and grated carrots and parsley along with the mayo and red peppers in the salad.Your adaptation sounds much better love mom

  2. sandra herlick

    I loved tripper’s stew! I introduced it to a friend on a camping trip this summer and it still tasted just as delicious. One correction…we would have been lucky to have had dry, white tuna at camp. We had flaked, light tuna which as I recall we called “catfood”. love sandy

  3. themondaybox

    Thanks for including the link to the KD definition for the uninitiated into Canadian lingo. KD was the only mac and cheese my son would eat growing up and though the definition says Americans serve it as a side dish, it was always served as dinner on its own to my kids. Little did I know that I was giving them dinner “Canadian Style”! 🙂 This is how you cook when you are alone?! Wow. I make grilled cheese when I am alone. Everything about this pasta dish, especially the lemon breadcrumb topping. sounds amazing to me!

  4. Corrie Gancman

    I have wonderful memories of your moms whipped Jello. Her’s was the best & I always looked forward to it. Trippers Stew, once in while I still make it for myself. KD, Tuna & Peas. Yummy! Sandy is right about the tuna.


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