For chef Gabriela Cámara, pasta has been a go-to comfort food during the pandemic.
The Mexican chef loves combining different vegetables and proteins to make variations of a theme. (The common theme being pasta.) The recipe she’s been turning to the most is a fresh tuna pasta with tomatoes and capers, the latter an Italian touch.
“There’s been a huge thing about comfort food and what is comforting,” she told the PBS NewsHour. That often means a mix between carbohydrates, some vegetables, and a protein, along with “a little bit of fat, in the way of cheese, of bacon, of lard.” For her pasta, she’s relied on ingredients that can be locally sourced in Mexico City.
Cámara said she’s been very taken by how people have sifted through family recipes throughout the pandemic.
“I think that’s one of the silver linings — to appreciate the simplicity of the foods that we grew up with or the foods that we have access to in our surroundings and not expect to have a great meal only when one can go out to a fantastic restaurant,” she said.
Below, Cámara shares her recipe for a poached fish dish, served with pasta, tomato sauce and capers.
Poached fish in olive oil
14 ounces (tuna, kampachi, halibut, any fresh fish that has a good amount of fat content)
2 garlic cloves, bruised
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2-4 dried chiles de arbol or chiltepines
2 cups olive oil
Heat oil until sizzling, add fish in fillets or big chunks, reduce heat and spoon hot oil over fish until white. Transfer fish to a baking dish, pour the remaining oil over it and let cool to room temperature. Add salt to taste. Keep in the fridge.
Cámara notes: “This is the base recipe, as it’s super versatile. I add conserved fish to salads, make pastas (as the one below), put it in sandwiches, dips, etc., depending on what I have going on and what other ingredients I have around.”
Pasta, tomato sauce, poached tuna
18 ounces of dry short pasta
Poached tuna (above recipe)
8 ripe tomatoes
3-4 fresh garlic cloves
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup capers
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt to taste
Put plenty of water for the pasta in a large pot.
While the water is coming to a boil, put tomatoes, garlic cloves and salt to taste in a blender until smooth. Add a bit of water if it needs it, so you can blend it well. Pass the sauce through a sieve.
By now, your pasta water should have come to a boil. When it does, add salt so that it ́s as salty as the sea, and add the pasta. Stir occasionally so it cooks evenly.
Heat a large pan at medium heat, add butter, and before it gets brown, add the tomato sauce. Let it come to a boil while stirring. Add roughly chopped capers. Lower heat. Add tuna in chunks. It will somewhat disintegrate, and that’s perfect for the sauce.
When the pasta is still very much “al dente” but not quite cooked, pass it through a strainer. Save a cup of the pasta water on the side. Immediately add the pasta to the pan with the tomato sauce for a minute or two, until the sauce has gotten all over the pasta and it’s well integrated. If it seems dry, add some pasta water. Add the chopped parsley right before serving.
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The PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown, Sam Lane and Susana Seijas contributed to this report.