Sesame-Tonnato Noodles 4.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Jan 8, 2018

Although tahini isn’t part of the Italian pantry, sesame seeds are used in that country’s cuisine. So incorporating the paste made with those seeds into tonnato might not be as unexpected as it seems. Using that sauce for spicy sesame noodles, however, could be construed as far-flung. But it works.

More uses for the sesame tonnato sauce: Serve with crudites; with lamb, veal or pork chops; with thinly sliced roasted flank steak; and with roasted or grilled eggplant.

To read the accompanying story, see: Tradition be damned. This quick Italian sauce suddenly goes with everything.

Make Ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. The dressed noodles can be refrigerated for a day or two.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

  • For the sesame-tonnato sauce
  • One 5- to 6-ounce can/jar good-quality tuna packed in olive oil
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, preferably superfine
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • For the noodles
  • 4 scallions, light and dark parts separated, both thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground Sichuan pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces dried spaghettini
  • Fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted/roasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped


For the sesame-tonnato sauce: Drain the tuna, reserving 1/2 cup of its oil. Combine the tuna, tahini and fish sauce in a food processor; puree for up to 2 minutes, to form a smooth, thick puree. Stop to scrape down the sides, as needed.

Add the sugar and continue to puree, gradually incorporating the rice vinegar, the reserved tuna oil and the extra-virgin olive oil (to taste). The sauce should have the consistency of smooth hummus. The yield is about 1 1/2 cups.

For the noodles: Combine the scallion white and light-green parts, crushed red pepper flakes and the Sichuan pepper in a mixing bowl or serving bowl.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Salt the water generously. Add the spaghettini and cook according to the package directions (until al dente), then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta to the bowl right away, plus 1/2 cup of the sesame tonnato. Toss to incorporate, followed by 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water; toss again to coat. Taste and add more sauce and more reserved pasta water to reach your desired flavor and consistency. (We used 2 tablespoons more of each, in testing.) Taste and add a little fish sauce, if desired.

Top with the scallion greens, sesame seeds and peanuts. Let the noodles sit for a few minutes, allowing the flavors to develop as the pasta cools. Serve at room temperature.

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Recipe Source

From food writer and cookbook author Charlotte Druckman.

Tested by Richard Kerr.

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