Food Memories: The Grown Up Tuna Casserole

Film by Sara WashingtonRecipe by Nick Adams

Nick Adams graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in Literature and, soon after, got a job in media relations in Berkeley.

He didn’t particularly care for it.

“I was not good behind a desk,” he told me. “We came to that conclusion.”  He was, however, good with food. He was quite passionate about it, in fact, as anyone could see from the leftovers he would bring into work everyday. After a year and a half he decided to abandon the desk all together and took a job as a busser in a restaurant in the Lower Haight in San Francisco. He did this with the intention of working his way into the kitchen which, he admits, took much longer than he thought it would. Six months of bussing tables got him to the super-glamorous position of fryer, “You know, that guy in the kitchen that is cover in oil and smells like grease all the time,” he laughed. “But one of the first chefs I worked with told me ‘Just look to your right and work harder than the guy standing next to you, and you’ll move up.’ So that’s what I did. I kept looking right and, ten years later, here we are.”

When I told Nick about the Food&_ Food Memories series his eyes lit up and he knew, immediately, that he wanted to do his version of his father’s tuna casserole. “Give me a few days to think about and maybe I can come up with something better,” he said, but he never did. Of all of the dishes that his parents made for him as a child many of them stand out, but none quite as much as this one.


Olive Oil Poached Swordfish with Fresh Tagliatelle, Early Spring Vegetables and Parmesan Broth



For the swordfish

1 Swordfish fillet
Extra virgin olive oil

For the fresh tagliatelle

6 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1 egg
AP Flour and Semolina (for dusting)

For the parmesan broth

4 Shallots
6 Garlic cloves
4 Sprigs thyme
Black peppercorns
2 cups White wine
1 quart Vegetable stock
2 cups Heavy cream

To assemble the dish

2 stalks Green garlic
4 Wild asparagus stalks
Fresh english peas
2 tbsp Unsalted butter
Fresh lemon juice


For the swordfish

Begin with 1 swordfish fillet. If the fish still has skin on, carefully fillet the meat from the skin. Cut the fillet into manageable pieces that will fit into your sauce pan. The meat will be flaked after poaching, so aesthetics aren’t important here, but cut pieces that are similar in size to ensure even cooking.

In a saucepan, begin to heat extra virgin olive oil over a low heat. Use a thermometer to reach and maintain a temperature of roughly 130 degrees farenheit.

Begin checking the fish after approximately 15 minutes. You want the fish to be medium, so when feeling the fillets they should be somewhat springy without being overly firm. When finished, remove the fish and allow to cool on a rack.

For the fresh tagliatelle

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, combine 6 cups of all-purpose flour with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Separately, whisk together 1 egg and 1 ½ cups water.

Slowly drizzle the water-egg mixture into the flour at a medium-low speed. After several minutes, your dough should come together into a ball. You want it to be firm with some give, and not too sticky. If you need to, add small amounts of flour to achieve proper consistency.

When the pasta dough is finished, cover the dough with a damp towel and allow to rest 1 hour.

Cut the dough into 4 equal size balls, and with dust a clean work area with flour. Roll the dough out into a rectangle roughly ¼” thick. Set your pasta machine to its widest setting and pass the dough through. Fold each end together and pass through again. Set the machine to the next setting, and pass the dough through. Repeat this process, passing the dough through twice until you reach the narrowest setting. Dust the pasta sheet with a small amount of AP flour and semolina, roll the sheet up into a cylinder, and cut into ½” noodles.

For the parmesan broth

Roughly chop ¼” of parmesan cheese (If you have any leftover pieces of the rind of parmesan, they are perfect for this). Thinly slice 4 shallots and 6 cloves of peeled garlic. Gently sweat the garlic and shallots over a low heat until translucent. Add the parmesan, 4 sprigs of thyme and a small handful of black peppercorn and cook while moving constantly for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with 2 cups of white wine and cook down until syrupy. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.

After simmering for 45 minutes, add 2 cups of heavy cream, and allow the cream to slightly reduce at a very low heat for another 30 minutes. Strain and reserve.

To assemble the dish

Thinly slice 2 stalks of green garlic and 4 stalks of wild asparagus. Saute these two together in a neutral cooking oil over medium heat so that the vegetables become lightly golden. Season with salt and pepper. In a separate pot, have a strong rolling boil of heavily salted water. Drop in your fresh pasta. Add the parmesan broth and fresh English peas and turn the heat up to high. Flake the swordfish into the sauce as well at this point. As the cream continues to reduce, add a spoonful or two of the pasta water as needed. When the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain well and add. Finish the dish with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and fresh lemon juice.

Garnish the dish with baby basil, several stalks of arugula rabe, a grating of fresh parmesan and a drizzle of a nice olive oil.

Food Memories: The Grown Up Tuna Casserole was created by Food&_ community members:

Sara Washington

Sara Washington