I met Dorit Kemsley last fall during a recording session for Glamour's podcast What I Wore When, and although I found her to be funny, warm, and game to riff on any topic, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star wasn't someone I'd expect to be particularly comfortable in front of an oven—this is a woman who told me the (very entertaining) story of why she once had to impulse-buy a $3,000 Alexander McQueen dress. Wrong! When we spoke next—during our nation's quarantine—the topic at hand was food, not fashion.
"I love to cook, especially for my husband and kids," she tells me when I asked for her go-to recipe, a tomato-based pasta she likes to call her "special tuna sauce," which was created by her mother and originally called for cod, until one night she was forced to improvise with tuna. "It instantly became a family favorite."
Dorit stuck with the substitution—she now makes it with Tonnino jarred tuna in oil—and says everyone she makes it for loves it, although her husband, PK, was slow to warm to its charms.
"I wanted to cook it for PK for years and he would always say not to because he [thought he] wouldn't like it," she says. "Then one day I cooked it for my son Jagger when he was one year old, which he loved, and PK tried it without knowing what the dish was." You can guess what came next. "This is the greatest thing you've ever made!" he told Dorit, and she's been whipping it up for him ever since.
Great Jones Deep Cut Sauté Pan
Tonnino Tuna Filets in Olive Oil, Pack of Six
Out of curiosity, I asked Dorit what she's snacking on in quarantine, given that our fridge fingers seem in use more frequently these days. "I've been naughty in quarantine," she says. "I snack on everything my daughter Phoenix and I bake—and I don't usually have a sweet tooth—and chips at night while watching television with PK. But I also keep cut up fruits and veggies in the refrigerator, so that’s always an easy snack to grab."
As for her tuna sauce, the dish is super easy to make and—before coronavirus— the main ingredient is simple to find, but Dorit says she recently went to seven grocery stores to look for jarred tuna fillets, before caving and ordering them from Amazon. The recipe is also easily adaptable to varied palates—eyeballing measurements of the basic ingredients works here. Read on for how to make Dorit Kemseley's special tuna sauce.
1 jar Tonnino tuna fillets in olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
As much chopped garlic as you like
1 jar tomato sauce; or homemade, using crushed tomatoes
Capers, as much as you like
Handful of sliced pitted olives (black, green, or both)
Pinch red pepper flakes
Fresh basil leaves, torn
½ cup white wine
Grated Parmesan cheese
Pasta of your choice
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
In a large sauté pan warm the olive oil. Add garlic, stir until fragrant.
Add tomato sauce (if using crushed tomatoes, season with with salt, pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes).
Bring sauce to boil, stir in wine, and reduce heat to medium-low.
Add tuna fillets with the jarred olive oil. Mash into sauce.
Add basil, olives, and capers (and whichever spices it still may need).
Lower heat and let simmer while you’re pasta is cooking.
Cook pasta 8 to 10 minutes, or according to the package instructions.
Drain pasta and add to sauté pan with the sauce, stirring well to coat.
Serve with a drizzle of little olive oil on top.
Add fresh grated Parmesan cheese if you like.
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