Atún Con Tomate: The Simple Spanish Tuna Dish You'll Crave Constantly

When it comes to seafood, simplicity is often best. Since the texture of oceanic proteins is less durable than land dwellers, it's much easier to overcook. Poaching fish generates the most even texture, notes AboutSeafoodBarbecuing and pan-searing are also go-to cooking methods for fish, but don't neglect a stew — a fish base can lend the dish a rich flavor.

Seafood stews often incorporate many ingredients — from Thai-influenced curries full of aromatics to a saffron-infused bouillabaisse. However, it doesn't always have to be fussy. Take atún con tomate, a straightforward Spanish dish with only a handful of ingredients. It utilizes fresh tuna, a fish beloved by home cooks, combined with a sauce of only tomatoes, onions, garlic, and oil. Especially when cooked in season, this combination yields a bowl with a sum greater than its parts, per Cocinado a mi manera. Let's dive into this addictive dish — before you know it, it'll become a go-to summer classic.

What is atún con tomate?

This tasty tuna dish is split into two parts. First, an olive-oil-heavy tomato sauce, known as tomate frito, is assembled. Then, after some time simmering, the tuna is cooked in the liquid for a few minutes — and with that, the dish is ready! A favorite of home cooks due to its hearty simplicity, atún con tomate is not often served in upscale restaurants.

Rather, it's a stalwart of old-school taverns and home cooking because it's quick to prepare and perfect for summertime lunches, via Saveur. Hailing from Cadiz, a coastal province in Southern Spain, the emphasis of this dish is the freshness of the catch. As such, make sure to go for the best-looking steaks available — especially as a critical aspect of the dish is not overcooking the tuna, via Apollo Olive Oil.

Aside from the fish, the other fundamental component is tomate frito, which comes together with as-fresh-as-possible plum tomatoes simmered in a generous quantity of olive oil, explains The New York Times. While this mix is sometimes sold pre-packaged, opt for a fresh version for optimal flavor. As in much of Spanish cuisine, the final result stems from the quality of the initial ingredients. Here's a look into the cooking process.

How is atún con tomate prepared?

Start with the sauce. A classic tomate frito starts with an onion and garlic sautee. Using a sizable amount of olive oil, the tomatoes are mixed in and fried. They then simmer in the pan for up to an hour, until reduced into a thick sauce, per The Spanish Chef. Specifically for atún con tomate, white wine is added once the tomate frito has thickened, and the heat is raised.

At this point in cooking, the tuna steaks are tossed into the hot liquid, sometimes with a broth made from their discarded bones. Depending on size, they're sauteed for 5 to 10 minutes until cooked through but still juicy, explains Cocina Casera y Facil. There are many variations by adding different flavors to the tomato sauce or adjusting the texture of the tuna.

For example, peppers are a frequent component in the tomate frito, and sometimes the tuna is pan-fried before immersing in the sauce, as outlined on Basco Fine Foods. Alternatively, Benjamin Kemper of Saveur brightens his atún con tomate with garlic-parsley oil. There are many ways to prepare this vibrant but simple dish, as long as two central tenets are adhered to. Keep it fresh, and keep it simple.