Canned tuna is one of the most versatile ingredients in my pantry. Based on my recent posting of favorite food products, you’ll remember that I’m a fan of Costco‘s Kirkland-brand tuna. Costco sells items in bulk, so you get a good number of cans in a pack.
This past Saturday morning, my husband and I had planned to work for the rest of the day on some home projects, so I wanted to make something quick and easy to put in the fridge for lunch. My colorful Lemony Mediterranean-Style Tuna Pasta Salad hit the spot, and put that canned tuna to good use.
Once, while visiting the Mediterranean coast of Spain, I tasted a tuna pasta salad on which this one is modeled — except that one used a cheese similar to feta. Lemon and pesto help pull together the Mediterranean flavors for this zesty dish.
In this recipe, small colored pasta shells are the stars holding up the show behind the tuna. I like to use the Whole Foods Market 365 brand which has a mixture of regular, spinach, and tomato pasta shells. You can use pasta shells or fusilli or penne or whatever suits your needs.
Crunchy red bell pepper, oniony scallions, briny Kalamata olives, crispy celery, and ripe red tomato are chopped and added to the flaked tuna. The “dressing” includes pesto (I make my own), parmesan, lemon zest, parsley, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and olive oil. Mix everything together and add some toasted pine nuts and season with salt and pepper, and maybe more parmesan.
I use water-packed tuna — but for a real treat, and likely more “authentic” — you can use oil-packed tuna. I purchase my Kalamata olives at my local Whole Foods Market‘s olive bar.
From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….
Lemony Mediterranean-Style Tuna Pasta Salad
8 oz pasta shells, cooked al dente, and cooled
1 can (7oz) water-packed tuna, drained and flaked
1/4 c red bell pepper, finely diced
1 scallion, sliced thinly (use white and green parts)
12 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 rib celery, sliced thinly
1 large tomato, finely diced
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted (Trader Joes sells toasted pine nuts)
1/4 c fresh pesto (or you can use jarred but I find fresh to be tastier)
1/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 T lemon zest
1/4 c parsley
1/4 c parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
Additional parmesan cheese for garnish
1. Cook the pasta to al dente (a firm bite) based on package directions. When pasta is cooked, drain, and run cold water over the pasta to cool it. Drain again, and set aside.
2. In a large glass or non-metallic bowl, combine the bell pepper, scallion, Kalamata olives, celery, tomato, and toasted pine nuts with the flaked tuna.
3. In a smaller bowl, mix together the pesto, mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, and parmesan cheese.
4. Add the dressing to the tuna mixture. Mix well.
5. Add the cooled and drained pasta to the tuna and dressing mixture. Mix well so that the pasta is coated.
6. Sprinkle more parmesan on the tuna pasta salad and perhaps place a parsley sprig on top.
7. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Serves 4 as a salad or pasta course or side dish.
Variations: Use fat-free mayo or cut out the mayo and use a bit more oil. I like a slightly-creamy pasta salad — you may prefer one that is less (or more) creamy so raise or lower the mayo amount. Can add more lemon juice if you cut out the mayo. You can use oil-packed tuna if you prefer, and also add some anchovy paste for a richer taste. Substitute feta cheese for the parmesan and roasted red pepper for the red bell pepper. You can cut back on, or eliminate, the cheese if you are watching dairy or fat intake.
This Mediterranean-Style Pasta Salad will absorb the dressing as it sits in the fridge. You may want to add more oil, mayo, or lemon juice, or a combo of the three, before serving.
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