Broccoli tuna pasta: Matilda Dixon-Smith

This post is part of a segment where I recreate the recipes of those around me. I am forever curious about the homecooked food my friends and family subsist on and nourish themselves with – what are their lazy day go-to meals? What do they turn to when they feel like making a splash in the kitchen? What is their definition of comfort food? I will explore these questions through my histamine-intolerant lens, but will include the original recipes for those who don’t get bloated off everything.

What: My first time cooking with nutritional yeast (otherwise known by its street name ‘nooch’) and let me tell you: I’m a convert

Who: Nooch Wizard

Bloat score: 1 – Had to loosen my belt a notch

A few weeks ago, I posted a despondent Instagram story beseeching friends to share their beloved fall-back recipes with me, so sick I was of trying out new recipes and having them spectacularly fail or worse, turn out spectacularly subpar, because they didn’t even warrant a good story.

One of the many kind people who responded to me with their archetypal go-tos was Nooch Wizard, who shared recipes for yummy-sounding things I couldn’t eat due to my histamine intolerance – Japanese curry, and an eggplant and tomato pasta. We hit the jackpot with her third suggestion, which was incidentally something I could (mostly) tolerate – a broccoli, tuna, cannellini bean and red capsicum pasta. I can eat two out of those four things (bonus points if you can guess which) and 50% ain’t bad!

Nooch Wizard says about her favourite creation:

“The ‘sauce’ is just white wine, pasta water and nutritional yeast to thicken. You can sub in and out anything you can’t eat, but broccoli and tuna pasta slaps my whole bod and the white beans give it extra body (as does the yeast!).”

Nooch Wizard gets her nickname for introducing me to nooch and the many ways in which it’s used in cooking. Let’s speak about nutritional yeast i.e. nooch for a minute. It’s a dairy-free savoury food seasoning made from an inactive form of yeast strain, the very same yeast strain that bakers use to leaven bread. If that’s too technical for you (it is for me), know this: nooch is favoured by vegans as a topping sprinkled on salads, roasted veggies and pastas because it has a cheese-like flavour. Nutritional yeast contains naturally-occurring MSG, just like parmesan, and this explains its umami flavour. You can use it in place of cheese but if you’re not vegan, you can use it alongside cheese like what Nooch Wizard does in this pasta. I loved my first experience of it and will be adding it to everything (within reason) that I cook from here onward.

Nooch Wizard was right when she said this was a versatile pasta – I added tuna to half the portion and forewent it for the other half due to Mr Whatever Floats Your Bloat’s disavowal of anything fishy, and we each enjoyed our respective portions as much as the other. Though I must say, if you’re a tuna fan, this is so good with it – specifically Sirena in olive oil because only the best for me! Nooch Wizard also made it one day with brussel sprouts instead of broccoli and highly recommended that combination too.

This pasta was incredibly easy to whip up and I looked forward to my leftovers for days. The beans and tuna added heft, the umami factor was through the roof due to the combination of nooch and parmesan, and the broccoli provided some welcome nutrition. I probably could’ve done without the red capsicum because it’s a high-histamine vegetable, but it did add a nice crunch.

I’ve included Nooch Wizard’s original instructions below, with my additional comments in italics. Nooch Wizard is very familiar with the low-histamine diet and has included various substitutions for high-histamine ingredients in her footnotes.

Broccoli tuna pasta (an original recipe by Matilda Dixon-Smith)
Serves: 5

1 red onion, thinly sliced* (I omitted this)
2 cloves of garlic, diced or crushed
1 chilli, seeds or no seeds to taste*
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets as small as you like – include chopped stem if you fancy (I peeled the stem and then chopped it into small diced bits)
1 red capsicum, centre removed and roughly chopped**
1 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1–2 185g tins of tuna, drained (how hungry are you??) (I only used 1 can as Mr Whatever Floats Your Bloat abhors tuna)
Pasta of your choosing (I like brown pasta best for this as it gives a nice nutty flavour, but it’d sincerely slap with white fettuccine) (I had to use gluten-free pasta and opted for penne since that’s what I had, but I’d use gluten-free fettuccine the next time)
2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a dash for serving
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup water
1/2 cube vegetable stock***
1/3 cup reserved pasta water
Handful of nutritional yeast**** (I um maybe liberally doused my pasta in a few handfuls of nutritional yeast)
Parmesan, to taste*****
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh basil leaves, ripped

*These are good bases for those who can eat histamines. For those who can’t, the dish is fine to start with the broccoli straight in the pan
**If you can’t / don’t eat capsicum, any other crisp, watery vegetable will do here – perhaps a leafy green like cavalo nero / kale
***If you can’t use stock, the broccoli will cook just fine here without it – perhaps just add an extra sprinkle of salt instead
****Nutritional yeast is not everyone’s game! We have discovered it through semi-veganism. It’s great for thickening up ‘dry’ sauces like this because it acts almost like an egg. Without it, the sauce will be OK because of the pasta water, but the yeast will improve it!
*****If you’re not into parmesan, another dry, crumbly cheese will suit. If you’re not a cheese eater, you can sprinkle more nutritional yeast on at the end.

Cook the pasta of your choice to just al dente. Drain the pot, but reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water for later use. Return the pasta to the pot, put the lid back on and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in the pan on medium heat. If using garlic and chilli, cook both in the hot oil for 30 seconds, until fragrant but not burning. If using red onion, add to the pan and cook for 2–3 minutes until it begins to turn translucent and starts browning.

Add all the broccoli to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1–2 minutes until slightly softened. Then add the wine, the water and the stock cube (if using) and turn the heat down to low. Put the lid on and allow the broccoli to steam in the liquid for 3–5 minutes, or until bright green and just tender.

Add the capsicum (or other vegetable, if using) and cook, stirring frequently for 1–2 minutes, so it’s warm and softened a little, but still crisp. (Be sure not to overcook the broccoli at this stage – better to undercook the capsicum than overcook the broccoli).

Add the cannellini beans, the tuna, the reserved pasta water and the nutritional yeast, and stir to combine until the sauce thickens up. Turn off the heat.

Add the pasta, a dash of olive oil, parmesan (if using), and salt and pepper. Stir through and adjust seasoning to taste. (The pasta should be warm from the sauce and the pan, but if not, turn the heat back on for about 30 seconds to warm it back up a bit. This pasta also tastes good with a squeeze of lemon on it if that’s your thing.

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Serve the pasta with ripped basil leaves on top and a glass of dry white or pink wine 😉

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Author: Sonia Nair

Sonia Nair is a Melbourne-based food writer who persists with her love of everything deep fried and spicy, despite being diagnosed with a histamine intolerance and lactose intolerance after incorrectly thinking she was fructose-intolerant for several years.

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