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This is a throw-back to my childhood.  On hot summer days (we didn’t have air-condition!), when my mother didn’t want to heat up the kitchen, she would make this in the morning, and put it in the fridge.  At dinner time, she would add it to chopped iceberg lettuce, along with thawed frozen peas.  It was so very good, at the end of a hot day.  And lo-and-behold, it still is delicious.  I’m serving it without the chopped iceberg lettuce, but on a bed of arugula, instead.  The peppery arugula is a nice foil.  We are fortunate enough to have a/c, so we don’t need that extra layer of coolness.  But, by all means, feel free to add the lettuce, if you wish.  My mother’s version used much more mayonnaise than my version…again, use more if you wish.  Pasta salads have a tendency to “dry” out as they sit.  If that happens, add more mayo or more vinaigrette, a tablespoon at a time.

Some things to note:

  • Most people use sweet relish (or dill) for tuna salad.  My mother used diced up bread and butter pickles, instead.  And I still do that…they have more crunch and a more complex flavor.  They’re just better!
  • I add jicama, but you can use red radishes or daikon radish, if you wish.
  • Add the peas just before serving, or they tend to “gray” and lose their bright green color if they sit for awhile.  The flavor will be unaffected.
  • Using elbow or small shell pasta works better than large, or smaller pasta.
  • This is decidedly better if it sits for several hours before serving (In the fridge, please!)
  • Slightly under cook the pasta; you want it to have a bit of chew, without having a hard center.  Dress the pasta, while hot, with the vinaigrette.  I use Newman’s Own® Honey Apple Cider Vinaigrette.  But, you can add Italian dressing, or your favorite vinaigrette.  Let it cool before you add the remaining ingredients.
  • This will keep for at least 5 days, in the fridge.  I think it gets better as it “ages”.

Now, down to business.  This is an everything-in-one-bowl-type of salad.  I usually combine the main ingredients, then add the mayonnaise and mustard.  Fold everything together until combined.  Add the tuna, leaving it in large-ish pieces.  Fold together.  Everything should be in the salad, except the peas.  Those get tossed in just before serving.  Sprinkle each portion with some sumac, for an additional little lemon punch!  Enjoy with some good bread or crispy crackers on the side.

Summer Delight Tuna Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Moderately Easy
  • Print

This salad is delicious with, or without, the tuna.  It is best made several hours before serving, or chill overnight.

  • 1 1/2 cups dry elbow or medium shell pasta, uncooked
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (you’ll probably need more)
  • 5 tablespoons Newman’s Own® Honey Apple Cider Vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons bread and butter pickle brine
  • 4 (5 ounce) cans water-packed albacore chunk tuna, very well-drained
  • 3/4 cup finely diced celery (include some leaves)
  • 1 small Persian cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced jicama
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions, include some of the green part
  • 1/2 cup diced cherry or Roma tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup finely diced bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup well-drained finely diced bread and butter pickles
  • 1/4 cup drained pimentos or roasted peppers, diced (optional)
  • 3-4 teaspoons bread and butter pickle brine (or more, if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dillweed (or more–optional)
  • Grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • Juice for 1 large lemon
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped black olives (pitted)
  • Dressing:
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 rounded tablespoon yellow mustard
  • To Serve:
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • Sumac, for garnish
  • Good crackers, for service
  • Green or black pitted olives, for service

Cook pasta in boiling water, until just barely al dente.  Drain well.  Place in a large bowl and immediately sprinkle with the salt and toss with the vinaigrette and pickle brine.  Set aside to cool, about 20 minutes.

To the bowl with the pasta, add everything but the dressing ingredients.  Toss.  In another bowl, combine the dressing ingredients.  Pour over the tuna mixture; toss.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the pasta and mix well. Can sprinkle with more paprika. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. This makes about 8 cups and keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.

NOTE:  I add dry veggies stock to the water when I cook the pasta.  It adds both salt and flavor, but isn’t necessary.  If gluten is an issue, this works just as well with gluten-free pasta.  You may add 5 chopped hard-boiled eggs to the salad, if you wish.  Chicken (cooked), imitation crabmeat or cooked shrimp can be used, instead of the tuna.

Summer Delight Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2020.  All rights reserved.