Recipes

Spain’s Coziest Fish Dish Is Atún con Tomate (Tuna and Tomato Stew)

You won’t see this stew on fancy restaurant menus—but it’s an abuela-approved standby that you don’t want to miss.

  • Serves

    4 servings

  • Cook

    1 hour 10 minutes

PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAOLA + MURRAY; FOOD STYLING BY OLIVIA MACK MCCOOL; PROP STYLING BY SOPHIE STRANGIO
Benjamin Kemper

By Benjamin Kemper


Published on September 29, 2022

Welcome to One Pot Bangers, Benjamin Kemper’s column, where you’ll find our freshest, boldest cooking ideas that require just one pot, skillet, or sheet pan. Busy week? We’ve got you covered with these low-effort, high-reward recipes from around the globe.

“ATÚN CON TOMATE” read the chalkboard of daily lunch specials at La Amarilla in Madrid, the kind of no-nonsense neighborhood taberna with crinkly paper tablecloths and olive pits on the floor. The dish was the only main course that hadn’t been 86’d, but it sounded too simple to be any good. Really? I thought to myself. Tuna with tomato sauce… That’s it? 

Indeed, it was. But if there’s one thing to know about Spaniards and their fish, it’s that the simple is often sublime. La Amarilla’s atún con tomate was anything but bland, and I’ve been ordering it—and making it at home—ever since. The dish starts with good tomate frito, the silky Spanish mother sauce of plum tomatoes, onions, and enough fruity olive oil to turn it bright red-orange. Into the puréed tomate go hunks of ocean-fresh tuna, which poach to flaky perfection in a matter of minutes. And as they say in Spain, ya está. 

At La Amarilla (and in abuelas’ kitchens the country over), that’s where the recipe ends. Me, I like to liven things up with a garlic-parsley oil that pops against the vivid red sauce. Served with a crusty baguette for sponging up the juices, atún con tomate is peasant food for the gods. 

Note: If you can find albacore (“bonito” in Spanish), use it here—it’s the traditional choice in this dish, which is also called bonito con tomate. That said, any ultra-fresh, thick-cut tuna steak that passes the smell test will do. Swordfish or mackerel may also be substituted.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley leaves
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 3 small garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small Cubanelle or green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 6 medium plum tomatoes (2 lb.), coarsely chopped
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • 2 lb. tuna steaks (1–1½ in. thick), skin and any pin bones removed, cut into 1½-in. cubes (see note)

Instructions

Step 1

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the parsley, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and one of the garlic cloves to a paste. Stir in ¼ cup of the oil and set aside. (Alternatively, add all ingredients to a small food processor and pulse until combined.)

Step 2

To a large pot set over medium heat, add the remaining oil and garlic, the onion, Cubanelle pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are pale golden and completely soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, and remaining teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-high and cover. Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have nearly broken down, about 9 minutes. Uncover and cook at a simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 14 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

Step 3

Using an immersion blender, carefully purée the sauce. Add the tuna, turn the heat to medium, and cover. Cook, undisturbed, until the tuna is just cooked through, about 9 minutes.

Step 4

To serve, ladle the atún con tomate into bowls and drizzle with the parsley oil.

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