We can all agree that Italian cuisine is distinct. Different. Special. But what not even Italians can agree on is exactly why. Some say it’s the focus on high quality ingredients. Others point to a minimalist approach – the complete opposite of that found in French cuisine. And still others talk up the easy going Italian attitude as the secret to their success.
But it’s clear that there is an emphasis on freshness. Be it freshly made pasta, luscious ripe tomatoes straight from Mama’s garden, or just freshly caught fish. So it might surprise you to learn that one of the most highly sought after seafood products in Italian cuisine is tinned tuna. Rio Mare Tuna – available from Limoncello.
At first glance this makes no sense at all. After all, we in the UK well know the reputation of canned fish. And it’s more of a reputation for affordability and a long shelf life than one of high quality and tastiness. But then what would you expect from a people who take lovely fresh fish, douse it in batter and deep fry it? You can almost hear the Italian cries of shock and disbelief at such food heresy from here.
But much of this poor reputation stems from a couple of choices made during the tinning process. The first is to prioritise quantity – leading to an inevitable drop in quality. And the second is to tin the fish in brine. Which, though a good preservative, will often lead to the taste of the fish in question being literally watered down.
Rio Mare Tuna
Rio Mare Tuna is completely different. To begin with they prioritise quality, making it a specialist product rather than something found on your average supermarket shelf. Only the finest fillets of yellowfin and skipjack tuna are selected for canning. Compare this to the often quoted (though perhaps apocryphal) “fact” that 84% of “tuna” served in sushi joints across the world is actually Escolar. A lesser fish that does bad things to people’s digestion. You never have to fear that with Rio Mare Tuna.
After selection the tuna fillets are delicately cooked. Then they are covered in high quality olive oil and allowed to marinade for 6-8 weeks before distribution and sale. Many connoisseurs feel that it is this quasi-aging process, which allows the olive oil and tuna flavours to mingle and merge, that results in this superior quality product.
It is also what makes it so suitable for (and great in) Italian cooking. With its heavy emphasis on olives, olive oil, and other tastes and ingredients which complement them. What better to elevate an Italian salad than fillets of succulent tuna already infused with olive oil?
In fact, Rio Mare Tuna is widely held to be superior to even fish so fresh they were caught that day for many aspects of Italian cuisine. It is a high quality, highly prized and much sought after product for all Italian chefs. And where can such a boutique Italian product be found? Limoncello, of course. The Cambridge home of boutique Italian products.
Credit: Thomas Farley