Many years ago… I worked at Macy’s in downtown SF. The store has changed over the years, but the biggest change for me is the layout of The Cellar, or the basement level of the women’s store. It is now a wonderland of cooking equipment with a few resident eateries, but it used to be a wonderland of food. There was a central circular area with cold and hot dishes–vegetable and pasta salads, casseroles–all fancy and fabulous. Along one wall was a sumptuous meat and cheese area, along another was Boudin’s with their freshly baked bread. And mixed in there somewhere was a decadent candy counter. Now my memory may not serve me as well as it once did, and I might be missing a few details, but that was the general layout. Employees would pop down on lunch breaks to grab a smidgen of one of the lovely salads or a few slices of meat or cheese, a roll from Boudin’s, and off we’d go to find a quiet little nook to put it all together.
I met my best friend Shani at Macy’s. We worked side-by-side in the infants department as we braved college and the depressing job market that was to follow. Yes, there was a time when jobs didn’t grow on trees in the Bay Area… Anyway, to this day Shani and I still talk about a few of The Cellar’s salads. One was an orzo salad with shrimp, dill and red bell pepper. The other–and I think this was more me than her–was pasta tonado. Penne tossed with tuna, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and mayo. Simple and so, so good. My knowledge of Italian is limited, but I’m pretty sure “Pasta Tonado” was a name made up by the Macy’s chefs. Tonado has a nice ring to it, but I don’t believe it’s word that’s used. Anywhere. Tonno, yes, tonado, one n, not so much. But what do I know? The memory and the recipe make me extremely happy, and that’s all I care about.
Pasta Tonado (serves 4)
8 oz. (225g) uncooked pasta–tube or spiral pasta work best
3 oz. (90g) broccoli florettes
3 oz. (90g) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
5 oz. (142g) canned tuna*, drained
1/3 cup (80ml) mayonnaise, or more if desired
1/4 cup (60ml) sliced black olives (optional)–not part of the original recipe, but a welcome addition
Salt & pepper to taste
* I don’t particularly like tuna packed in water. I know folks are always watching calories, but… tuna packed in olive oil looks and tastes so much better (in my opinion). Fish packed in water tends to have a grainy texture, whereas fish packed in oil is firm. I also find tuna in water to have a much stronger odor than tuna in oil.
Have the broccoli washed and sitting in a colander over the sink.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Don’t overcook it. You want it al dente. Drain the pasta by pouring the water and pasta over the broccoli in the colander. This will provide just enough heat to cook the broccoli to a crisp tender state. Let it sit for five minutes. Don’t rinse with cold water. Turn the broccoli and pasta into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
Add the tomatoes, tuna, and olives if you’re using them, and start with a few tablespoons of mayonnaise. Mix until the mayonnaise is evenly distributed. Taste, season, add more mayo, etc. If you’re not serving this immediately, refrigerate until ready to serve. This can be made one day in advance.