Ever have one of those recipes that feels like it has been part of your life forever? My Tuna Pasta Salad recipe is like that for me. It was inspired by a salad my late Mom and I used to enjoy back when I was growing up in Canada at a (now long-gone) Italian restaurant called “Charlie’s” in Kitchener. We also ate a very similar version at Golf’s Steak House in Kitchener, a restaurant I’ve been going to since I was little. We enjoyed this Tuna Pasta Salad so much, that when I was about thirteen I decided to make a version of my own. It has been a part of family barbecues and pot lucks ever since.
I first blogged this recipe back in 2011. Can you believe I will have been blogging for 18 years come October 2020? My very first website, The 21st Century Housewife, went live in October 2002.
I’m often asked to make this tuna pasta salad for barbecues for family and friends, along with my late Mom’s Coleslaw, her tomato relish and her potato salad. It’s great to serve a crowd, but it also makes a delicious main course lunch for up to 6 people.
Tuna Pasta Salad Hints and Tips
Switch up this Tuna Pasta Salad recipe by using different pasta shapes. Penne works really well, as does fusilli, and small pasta shells make for a nice change. Or use ‘tricolore’ pasta as I did here. If you are not familiar with tricolore pasta, it is a white, green and orange combination made up of plain pasta, spinach pasta and tomato pasta.
When it comes to mayonnaise, I always recommend using a brand you love. I use a lower fat, lower calorie mayonnaise (Hellmann’s Lighter than Light) because I genuinely like the flavour. The flavour of the mayonnaise affects the flavour of the salad, so choose a good one!
Cook the pasta to al dente. You don’t want it too hard, but if it’s too soft it will fall apart.
You can use all kinds of vegetables in the salad. I vary them depending on what is available. Celery and red bell pepper always feature, but I sometimes add other colours of bell peppers, spring onions, sliced radishes and/or cucumber. Tuna Pasta Salad is lovely garnished with cherry tomatoes and a good sprinkle of flat leaf parsley.
Hearty enough to be a main course at lunchtime, this Tuna Pasta Salad is also great on a buffet, or packed in a picnic or lunchbox. As canned tuna, pasta and mayonnaise are store cupboard staples, it’s great for impromptu entertaining. Having said that, you can prepare it up to 24 hours in advance and let the flavours blend in the refrigerator, so my Tuna Pasta Salad recipe is great for making ahead too.
However or whenever you serve it, Tuna Pasta Salad is likely to become a real family favourite at your house too!
Tuna Pasta Salad – Printable Recipe
Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe
- 16 ounces dried pasta penne or bow tie pasta work well
- 2 cans of tuna about 7 ounces, packed in water if possible, drained
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 red bell pepper yellow works well too
- 4 or 5 sliced spring onions spring onions are also known as scallions
- 4 or 5 radishes, finely sliced You can mix and match veggies here. Basically I use about 2 cups of chopped/sliced vegetables for one salad.
- ¾ cup mayonnaise you may need slightly more or less
- ¼ teaspoon celery salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- a few cherry tomatoes cut in half for garnish (optional)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)
- Cook the pasta as per the package directions for al dente pasta.
- Drain and rinse gently under cold water until the pasta feels cold to the touch.
- Drain well.
- Place the drained pasta in a very large mixing bowl.
- Break up the tuna, and add it to the pasta along with the chopped vegetables.
- Toss gently with a fork.
- Add the mayonnaise gradually, tossing with the fork as you go. You don’t want the salad too moist, but you do want the mayonnaise to cover all the pasta, vegetables and tuna generously. Add more mayonnaise if you need to.
- Gently fold in the lemon juice.
- Taste the salad and add salt, pepper and/or more lemon juice, if desired.
- Transfer the salad into a serving bowl or individual Tupperware style containers.
- Chill before serving if time allows.
- Refrigerate leftovers for up to 24 hours.