Orecchiette with Fennel and Tuna

I’ve been circling the sun for 66 years – and I finally have the the very beginnings of a bicep. Not quite Charles Atlas – more like Charles Nelson Reilly – but it’s almost beginning to be there! Will wonders never cease…

When we started this, the goal was to lose weight. We’ve been losing the weight. What I naively wasn’t expecting was for my body to actually start working better – like with actual muscles and stuff working together to make things easier. It’s slowly happening.

Okay… I still can’t touch my toes – but I’m getting closer. And I hurt in places I never knew existed six months ago – but I’m recovering faster. It’s slowly happening.

It’s seeing – and feeling – the results of all of this that is keeping us going. It is most definitely the best money we have ever spent.

Our goal in all of this is NOT to look like some of the muscle-boys at the gym – no bulging biceps and thighs like tree trunks – but a little bit of toning wouldn’t hurt my feelings. Of course, to tone muscles, one must find them in the first place. We’re at the search and rescue portion of the journey, right now.

Our trainer is getting more demanding, but he’s also extremely understanding of where we are and where we started. He’ll start me out with 20 pound dumbbells but will switch them out when he sees me struggling too much. But then brings the 20 pounders back the next time. And he’ll keep increasing the weight on machines each time we do a rep until I literally cannot move whatever it is I am supposed to move – all  the while saying This is an easy one. Low weight. You can do it while my arms want to fall off and have completely stopped working.

On the other hand, I almost have the beginnings of a bicep. It’s slowly happening.

What didn’t slowly happen was dinner, tonight. It quickly happened, because it’s ready in the time it takes to boil the orecchiette. The recipe came from Jacques Pépin and has become a staple in our house. It’s really quick and easy to make. And it tastes fantastic! Our friend, Ann, started putting anchovies in it – and it’s a great addition!

The recipe calls for pine nuts, but I didn’t have any so I used pistachios. They were an excellent switch.

Orecchiette with Fennel and Tuna

adapted from Jacques Pépin

  • 1/2 lb Orecchiette
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 cloves of garlic,  minced
  • 1 6oz can of tuna (packed in oil, preferred)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Start cooking orecchiette.

In a large skillet, saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add the anchovies and cook a minute until they dissolve. Add the pine nuts and cook until they begin to lightly brown and are fragrant.

Add sliced fennel and stir or flip pan until fennel is on bottom and pine nuts on top. Add a bit of pasta water or white wine. Cover, and cook about 3 minutes.

Uncover and add bell peppers. Cook a few minutes and add the garlic. Continue cooking and add the tuna and raisins.

Cover, again, and cook until vegetables are tender – just a few more minutes.

Drain pasta and stir into fennel. Stir in parsley and cheese.

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

Twenty-five more weeks to go…..