Molded Tuna and Roasted Pepper Salad

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“Salads of tuna, tomatoes and roasted peppers are as abundant in Spain as tuna with mayo is in the United States. This is a molded tuna masterpiece, layered with slightly sweetened tomatoes and dolled up with basil and black olive puree. Serve it as a part of a tapas spread or as a luncheon salad with grilled country bread and have the recipe ready to hand out. The basil puree and the tomatoes can be prepared a day or even two ahead (the tomatoes need to sit about an hour). For molding the salad use a pie plate or experiment with a loaf pan or bowl, or make individual portions using ramekins or souffle cups. Adapted from the cookbook, "The New Spanish Table".”

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 5 tablespoons best-quality olive oil, plus more for brushing the peppers
  • 2 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 4 12 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar, preferably aged (or best-quality red wine vinegar)
  • kosher salt
  • 6 large roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips
  • 3 tablespoons store-bought black olive paste (see note)
  • 12 ounces imported solid tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked into chunks (or 2 6-ounce cans tonno in olive oil)
  • fresh basil oil (recipe follows)


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring gently, until reduced slightly, 6-7 minutes. Stir in the sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and season with salt to taste. Cook the tomatoes until the flavors blend, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a sieve set over a bowl and let the liquid drain for a few minutes. Let the tomatoes cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, place the roasted peppers in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, and a little salt and toss to mix. Let stand for about 30 minutes.
  3. Place the olive paste and the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl and whisk to mix.
  4. Assemble the salad: Line a 9-inch pie plate with plastic wrap, leaving some overhanging in two places. Arrange half of the roasted peppers on the bottom of the pie plate, scatter half of the tuna on top, drizzle a little basil oil over it, and top with half the tomato mixture. Top with layers of the remaining pepper strips, tuna and tomato mixture, drizzling some of the basil oil very lightly over the layers. Place a large serving plate on top of the pie plate, invert it and remove the pie plate and plastic wrap. Drizzle a little of the basil oil and the olive past mixture over the top of the salad. Decoratively drizzle the remaining basil oil around the salad (you might not need all of it) and dot with the remaining olive paste mixture. Serve the salad at once.
  5. Note: Small jars of black olive paste are available in specialty food markets. If you can't find any, substitute tapenade.
  6. Fresh Basil Oil:.
  7. If using the oil right away, you can skip blanching the basil.
  8. 1 1/2 cups packed basil leaves.
  9. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil.
  10. Kosher salt.
  11. Bring a medium-size saucepan of water to a boil over high heat and prepare a bowl of ice water.
  12. Blanch the basil in boiling water just until it turns bright green, 10-15 minutes. Drain and plunge into the ice water. Drain again, pressing it against the sieve to extract as much water as possible.
  13. Place the basil in a blender, add the olive oil and puree until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl, season with salt, and let stand 30 minutes before using. The oil will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week. Bring to room temperature before using. Makes 1/2 cup.

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