© 2016 Green Kitchen Stories Vegan_tuna_pasta_1

Penne Pomodoro with Vegan “Tuna”

I have crawled up in a rusty canopy swing with the computer in my lap, spiderweb from the canopy tangled up in my hair, Mr Bojangles on repeat (I always write with a single song on repeat in my ears) and Elsa balancing on my legs. We are spending a few days at my dad’s summerhouse and while Luise is drawing with Isac, I wanted to tell you about this pasta dish that we cooked and photographed the other day.

I’m trying to formulate my thoughts into words. How soaked sunflower seeds almost magically get the texture of canned tuna when mixed in a food processor. But it’s not easy. Elsa is using every muscle in her body to steal my attention from the computer screen. Her mouth is forming words (that I can’t hear because of the earplugs), her head is jumping from side to side while her eyes are actively seeking mine. She is smacking her hands together right in front of my face and she grins when I finally look up from the computer and pull out the earplugs.

– Do you know what this means on sign language? She asks me with giggle in her voice while she keeps smacking her hands together and then pointing at herself.

– No, tell me.

– I want a saaaaandwich!

– Are you hungry?

– No, I’m just teaching you sign language.

– Ok, nice. But I’m working right now. Maybe you can teach me more later?

– Ok. Just one more. Do you know what this is? [Taps her forehead with her hand and pulls it away in a half circle.]

– Ehm, maybe a unicorn?

– Nooo stupid, it means thank you. Actually, I think I want a sandwich.

– Maybe you can ask mom to help you?

– Okaaaaaaay.

She jumps down and runs into the house. Earplugs back in. I’m guessing that I have approx 5 mins to write this. Here we go.

Vegan_tuna_pasta_4

It’s not often that we create dishes that mimics meat. In fact, we often do the opposite by letting the vegetables shine in all their glory. I don’t remember eating tuna a lot before I became a vegetarian, but after having seen a few vegan sunflower seed “tuna” recipes on the web (especially this beautiful Tuna Tartine from Faring-Well) I suddenly got this weird craving for it. So we decided to give fake-tuna a try. By pulsing soaked sunflower seeds in a food processor together with salty capers, shallots, oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon and nori sheet, you actually get something that looks weirdly similar to canned tuna with a crumbly, moist texture and a flavour that reminds me of salty seas and umami.

Most recipes we’ve seen use this sunflower seed tuna as a spread or as a tuna salad (often with the addition of celery and herbs) but we instead added it to a tomato sauce and served it with penne, creating a classic Italian poor mans dish. The vegan “tuna” adds a nice texture to the sauce and it improves the flavour as well. The kids loved it! It is a simple recipe if you are on a budget and it is a tad more special than your basic pasta pomodoro. So go put your sunflower seeds in water and pretend they are a fish.

I can see Elsa eyeballing me from the window now so I better round this up. I have got a class in imaginative sign language up ahead with my favourite teacher.

Vegan_tuna_pasta_2 Vegan_tuna_pasta_3

Penne Pomodoro with Vegan “Tuna”
Serves 4

It’s important to soak the sunflower seeds to achieve the right texture so don’t skip that step. If you’ve got some white wine opened in the fridge, you can add a glug of that for extra depth and flavour.

Vegan Tuna
140 g / 1 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked in water for 6 hours or overnight
1 small shallot or red onion, minced
3 tbsp capers + brine

1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cold-pressed olive oil (coconut oil, ghee or butter)

1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 sheet of nori (the seaweed you use for sushi), cut into tiny pieces (optional)

Pomodoro Sauce
1 onion

2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
3 x 400 g / 14 oz cans of chopped tomatoes
1 handful fresh basil or 2 tsp dried

sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Serve with
Pasta of choice (we use wholegrain penne or a gluten free version made from dried beans)
80 g / 1/2 cup large capers
fresh parsley, finely chopped
ruccola

To prepare the “tuna”, simply add all ingredients to a food processor. Pulse a few times until it you have a coarsely textured mixture. Taste and add more salt, lemon juice or vinegar. Pulse again and scoop the mixture into a bowl.

Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Place a large sauce pan on medium heat and add olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes until fragrant. Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavours throughout. Add a splash of water or white wine if it starts looking dry.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package.

When the tomato sauce is ready, stir in 2/3 of the “tuna”, saving the rest for serving. Divide the pasta in 4 bowls, top with tomato sauce, capers, fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

54 Comments

  1. Posted 3 Aug ’16 at 17:30 | #

    Elsa is so funny :D
    By the way, this tuna-tomato recipe reminds me of a dish my mom used to prepare when we spent some weeks at our vacation home ; my dad and I used to stay at the beach until 1 pm while my mum was cooking lunch, that often consisted in “riso al tonno” – rice + tomato sauce + canned tuna. This dish should be able to evoke some childhood memories…

  2. Posted 3 Aug ’16 at 17:43 | #

    I didn’t know I can use soaked sunflowers to make a dish like this. I will use this recipe for our Sunday dinner and can’t wait to cook it. By the way… Your smoothie book is the best I ever read.

  3. Posted 3 Aug ’16 at 17:52 | #

    The vegan tuna is ingenious!

  4. Bee
    Posted 3 Aug ’16 at 18:48 | #

    Thank you! So excited to try this as I love tuna. Love your book when ch I received as a gift last month and has given me a new lease of life – so inspiring : )

  5. Posted 3 Aug ’16 at 19:49 | #

    It’s awesome that Elsa is learning sign language! She sounds like a very bright and energetic little girl :) This dish speaks to my heart on so many levels… I wish my Italian grandfather were still alive so I could make this for him. He instilled in me a huge love of pasta, so I know he would have loved this penne pomodoro!

  6. Lilith
    Posted 3 Aug ’16 at 20:29 | #

    Oh such a beautiful intro – love it ! Happy sign language class :-)

  7. Posted 3 Aug ’16 at 21:06 | #

    Well if I didn’t just nearly fall off my seat when I read this ;) I love, love your rendition of the magical sunflower seed mix here! I have got to give it a whirl soon. Right after I eat my weight in smoothies from your new book that just arrived (!!!) it is AMAZING you two. Big hearts.

    • Posted 4 Aug ’16 at 00:16 | #

      Hi Jessie! We loved your version, thank you so much for the inspiration. And we’re thrilled to hear that you like the new book! Big love!
      D&L

  8. Posted 3 Aug ’16 at 21:56 | #

    Wow here in Italy in my family we eat tuna tomato pasta a lot..however, as I’m pregnant, I should limit consumption of this kind of fish apparently (due to mercury content). And that’s why I am going to try this *tomorrow*..and for the rest of the Summer, I suppose! Thanks for the never ending inspiration

  9. Jenny
    Posted 3 Aug ’16 at 22:46 | #

    How many servings makes this recipe?

    • Posted 4 Aug ’16 at 00:14 | #

      Hi Jenny, it is 4 generous servings. Will add it to the recipe right away. Thanks for pointing it out!
      /D

  10. george
    Posted 3 Aug ’16 at 23:39 | #

    This sounds totally delicious! Can’t wait to try.Thank you for motivation to stay on course with wonderful inspiration. Keep it coming!

  11. Posted 4 Aug ’16 at 13:17 | #

    Oh my gosh, how I love your writing and Elsa, of course! ;) It made me smile a lot and by the way: so happy knowing that there is someone else in this world who’s writing blog posts while listening to a single song on repeat.
    All the best for you from Berlin!
    Theresa

  12. Posted 4 Aug ’16 at 14:23 | #

    I love your recipe! Would have never thought of using sunflower seeds this way but I’ve already put it on my “Things to try” list. Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. Posted 4 Aug ’16 at 17:19 | #

    Wow, I just made the tuna salad component of this and am blown away. Left out the nori since I didn’t have any in the pantry and this was still amazing. Added a few tablespoons of tahini to make it a little creamier since I’m stuffing it in a sandwich for travels tomorrow. Thanks guys, can’t wait to try this in the pasta next time! Oh, and always enjoy hearing about your family life in the posts too. :-)

  14. Posted 4 Aug ’16 at 17:53 | #

    I’m not much for imitating meat, but you had me at “salty seas and umami”. I’ll be keeping this recipe on the docket for the next time I want a special pasta.

  15. Posted 4 Aug ’16 at 19:16 | #

    Hey there! My friend and I are young entrepreneurs and we have just come out with our product. We have hand decorated mason jars and put the dry ingredients in them to make a wholesome and delicious treat. Right now, we have four recipes. Attached to the mason jars are a list of ingredients that we provide, a list of wet ingredients the consumer needs (3-4), a recipe card, and an information card talking a bit about how some of the ingredients used are better options for you body. Would love it if you checked out our website! http://www.sweetandmelty.com

  16. Posted 4 Aug ’16 at 21:57 | #

    Vegan tuna… ingenuous! Can’t wait to try this, looks so yummy!!

    Check out our Vegan February post : http://www.mimazine.co.uk/ xxx

  17. Posted 5 Aug ’16 at 00:56 | #

    I love all of this so much, it is so heartwarming to read and see! <3

  18. Helene
    Posted 5 Aug ’16 at 06:06 | #

    Thanks for another thrilling and innovative recipie – you really help energizing my cooking. And that has been going on for years! I am very grateful for your input. However I find the measure cup confusing, esp on A blog without clear “nationality”. In Sweden eg cup in a recipie usually means coffecup = 150 ml. In us 250 ml or something else.
    In this recipie this is maybe not cricial but a ( (=x ml) in your recipies would for sure help.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cup_(unit)

    Love from helene

    • Posted 5 Aug ’16 at 14:10 | #

      Hi Helene, oh sorry we missed adding that. We usually add both metric and imperial measurements to all our recipes.
      The volume 1 cup is equivalent to 250 ml and 1 cup sunflower seeds weighs approx 140 grams. We have added that info to the recipe now. Thank you for pointing it out.
      /David

  19. Posted 5 Aug ’16 at 15:31 | #

    Looks amazing !

  20. martina
    Posted 5 Aug ’16 at 16:46 | #

    I like it, nice taste, but I would not call it tuna.

  21. Posted 5 Aug ’16 at 16:53 | #

    This looks right up my street! I’ve been trying to eat a lot healthier lately so will definitely be giving this a try for lunch one day x

  22. Posted 5 Aug ’16 at 20:29 | #

    As always, your recipes are yummy and I always learn from you..Thanks

  23. Gaby
    Posted 6 Aug ’16 at 12:15 | #

    This recipe is amazing and delicious. Thank you so much! The idea of it inspired me to prepare it the same day.
    Instead of the nori there was a dried blend of seaweed flakes in stock and it worked fine.
    Soaking the sunflower seeds overnight probably works for less crunchy texture, which was also nice but less tuna-like. Now they soaked for six hours, precisely the time there was between finding the recipe and preparing.
    The tomato sauce is gorgeous and very tasty. Added a little bit of balsamic vinegar to the sauce, baked little aubergine dices over the pasta and a handful of fresh aragula around the dish for extra color, greens and taste. With the sunflower mixture and extra capers it was incredibly yummmm. A favourite.

  24. Hannah
    Posted 7 Aug ’16 at 01:38 | #

    Another lovely recipe!
    Just a question – I haven’t had any new recipes on my app for a long time. Is that unusual? You have so many lovely recipes on the site and there seems to be so few on the app, I’m not sure if there’s a problem.

    I’m just asking cause I love your recipes and would love to access them more easily!

    Thanks!

  25. Posted 7 Aug ’16 at 08:47 | #

    Penne Pomodoro with vegan tuna is an awesome combination. I am a fish lover and I want to try it with my evening coffee. Thanks for sharing mate.

  26. Nan
    Posted 7 Aug ’16 at 09:44 | #

    Any time you write about your family it makes me so happy! Thank you! I take your empathy and good humor as an example for how to better live my own life.

  27. Posted 7 Aug ’16 at 17:33 | #

    I thought I couldn’t love pasta more than I already did, but then I saw this.

  28. Posted 7 Aug ’16 at 23:17 | #

    fantastic!!

  29. Posted 8 Aug ’16 at 21:35 | #

    Oh my gosh. This tuna-tomato recipe is crazy good! I haven’t had one…must try this vegan! You are rocking it!

  30. Hannah-Phoebe
    Posted 8 Aug ’16 at 22:33 | #

    DEFINITELY gonna make this it looks delicious! what a wonderful idea to mix it into a tomato sauce! do you use a raw/untoasted or a toasted nori sheet? xx

  31. Kjersti
    Posted 10 Aug ’16 at 20:27 | #

    This tasted fantastic!!! Thank you :D

  32. Cassandra
    Posted 10 Aug ’16 at 22:25 | #

    This dish was amazing! Really recommend to everyone to make. I made just a third of the recipe because it was only for myself and I found that a mortar worked very well for making the “tuna”

    Thanks a lot for posting the recipe, this is a keeper!

  33. Posted 11 Aug ’16 at 09:40 | #

    I really loves penne pasta and especially when its cooked with new recipe with new ingredients in it, I like your recipe of tuna inside pene, I will try this at home rather food delivery from restaurants or some where. Thanks for sharing your ideas with others.

  34. Posted 11 Aug ’16 at 20:26 | #

    I love this recipe! Looks so hearty & satisfying, can’t wait to try it!

  35. jenny
    Posted 12 Aug ’16 at 08:17 | #

    do the seaweed go in to the blender as well?

  36. Posted 14 Aug ’16 at 20:57 | #

    Elsa is such a sweetheart! I love seaweed with anything as well :)

  37. Posted 20 Aug ’16 at 06:55 | #

    I am always looking forward to pasta recipes and this one is pretty much luscious! I will definitely try one on my own.

  38. Posted 21 Aug ’16 at 00:39 | #

    Thanks for the great recipe, I made it and it was super tasty!
    I made double of the amount to have some left overs for later. But my husband loved it so much, he ate it all up… :-))

  39. ivana
    Posted 29 Aug ’16 at 22:21 | #

    What an AMAZING tuna! I made just the vegan tuna and served it in the italian “vitello tonnato” style, using thin slices of steamed kohlrabi instead of vitello. Fitted perfectly! I just had to add some of the soaking water to make it more liquid. Such an amazing feeling to enjoy tuna, while sparing the poor endangered tuna at the same time :)

  40. Posted 17 Sep ’16 at 13:18 | #

    The vegan tuna is just aaaammmmmmaaaaziiing! We’ve had it just on toast with avocado, with salads in my version of Puttanesca. It’s just so wonderful so thanks!

  41. Riikka
    Posted 20 Sep ’16 at 22:19 | #

    I made this recipe today and it was really delicious! My kids liked it too. Who needs regular tuna..?

  42. Posted 28 Sep ’16 at 17:18 | #

    Ahh! Wow, this looks fantastic! Cannot wait to try this recipe :) Thanks for sharing!

  43. Clara
    Posted 30 Sep ’16 at 14:47 | #

    I’ve just made this for lunch. I used buckwheat penne and added some roasted vegetables too. It was totally delicious!

    Thank you so much for the many great recipes and wonderful stories.

  44. Posted 10 Oct ’16 at 15:13 | #

    Thank you!!!!! So excited to try this as i love tuna.

  45. Posted 14 Oct ’16 at 19:43 | #

    This sounds divine!
    Great blog. Fully informative. Thank for blog.

  46. Posted 2 Nov ’16 at 12:35 | #

    The vegan tuna is nice i love it so much …

  47. Peter
    Posted 25 Nov ’16 at 19:42 | #

    Elsa calls you “stupid”? That’s a bit hard :-(

  48. Posted 18 Dec ’16 at 19:12 | #

    love this recipe… thanks for sharing.

  49. Posted 4 Feb ’17 at 09:14 | #

    This dish was amazing! Really recommend to everyone to make. I made just a third of the recipe because it was only for myself and I found that a mortar worked very well for making the “tuna”

    Thanks a lot for posting the recipe, this is a keeper!

    This recipe is amazing and delicious. Thank you so much! The idea of it inspired me to prepare it the same day.
    Instead of the nori there was a dried blend of seaweed flakes in stock and it worked fine.
    Soaking the sunflower seeds overnight probably works for less crunchy texture, which was also nice but less tuna-like. Now they soaked for six hours, precisely the time there was between finding the recipe and preparing.
    The tomato sauce is gorgeous and very tasty. Added a little bit of balsamic vinegar to the sauce, baked little aubergine dices over the pasta and a handful of fresh aragula around the dish for extra color, greens and taste. With the sunflower mixture and extra capers it was incredibly yummmm. A favourite.

  50. Dana
    Posted 7 Mar ’17 at 08:58 | #

    Hi! I’ve made this recipe before and it tastes sooo good! Tonight I’ll make it for my whole non vegan family, so fingers crossed.
    I’m very curious though, I know you say 1 cup of sunflower seeds is approx. 140 gram, but my cup weighs just about 70 gram! Should I stick with the cup or stick with 140 gram?

    Love,
    Dana

Post a Reply to s@hatterassaltworks

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*