This recipe was inspired by a similar "diablo" (devil) pasta dish in the wonderful revised edition of The North End Italian Cookbook, by Marguerite Buonopane (the Globe Pequot Press, $16.95). Inspired is a pretty good word, too, because as great as this dish looked, I had just a few of the ingredients called for.
But winging it is a legitimate approach for stove-top sautes based on pasta. Find similar ingredients. In this case, Buonopane's recipe called for dried oregano (I substituted dried Italian seasoning), a red onion (shallots) and four kinds of fish (are you kidding? I defrosted two frozen tuna steaks in the microwave).
It also called for hot sauce and mushrooms. There was nothing even close, so I substituted wine and baby spinach leaves. I did have the red-pepper flakes it required, so - in lieu of the absent hot sauce - I doubled the amount to give this dish its "diablo-ness."
Oh, one more tip when embarking on creative interpretations: If it doesn't turn out, frozen pizza is a fine stand-in. I like to think that's why it was invented.
To make this a vegetarian dish, substitute two large, coarsely chopped portobello mushrooms for the tuna, and add it with the tomatoes and wine.
Radicchio and greens
Devil's food cake
Preparation time: 15 minutes; cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes 4 servings
1/2 pound vermicelli
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 shallots or 1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon each: dried Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
1/4 cup dry red wine such as chianti or malbec
2 tuna steaks, about 8 ounces each, sliced
1 package (10 ounces) baby spinach leaves
parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Heat salted water to a boil in a stockpot; add pasta. Cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, garlic, bell pepper, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes, salt and black pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and shallots have softened, about 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes and wine; cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add tuna; cook, stirring occasionally, until fish is opaque, about 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Drain pasta; divide into 4 bowls. Top with tuna and sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan, if desired.
Per serving: 518 calories; 10 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 47 milligrams cholesterol; 66 grams carbohydrate; 40 grams protein; 1,110 milligrams sodium; 4 grams fiber
-- Recipe and analysis from the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Publishing newspaper