Hands-down this is The Best Tuna Pasta Salad I’ve ever had!   It’s a cold pasta salad with Mediterranean flavors and features whole chunk light tuna (packed in water),  peas, celery, green onions, tomatoes, kalamata olives, pepperoncini and parsley. Make it with macaroni noodles and call it a Tuna Macaroni Salad.

bowl of pasta salad

I’ve called this The Best Tuna Pasta Salad for a reason!  It has a really incredible combination of flavors and healthy ingredients, and it’s always popular at picnics, parties and potlucks! Your whole family will love it! 

bowl of macaroni tuna salad

This healthy pasta salad recipe is a riff on a salad served at Gardunos (my favorite little local Italian spot) that my family has loved for years. You won’t find it on their menu year-round as they reserve this delicious pasta salad for the warmer spring and summer months. 

Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe

This salad is loaded with tomatoes, peas and parsley, giving it a lot of flavor and added nutrition.  I’ve used penne noodles here, but you could easily use corkscrew noodles, or use macaroni noodles instead for a tuna macaroni salad.

  • Dolphin safe canned tuna
  • Penne noodles (or use macaroni to make this a tuna macaroni salad)
  • Kalamata olives,
  • Frozen peas
  • Chopped tomatoes, celery and green onions
  • Pepperoncini (optional)
  • Flat leaf (Italian) parsley
  • Mayo
  • Pasta salad dressing

bowl of salad ingredients

bowl of chopped vegetables

How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad

This is an easy pasta salad to make.  It’s best chilled for an hour or so before serving.

  1. Cook pasta:  Cook pasta until al dente
  2. Steam peas: Place the peas in a colander and place in a pot with boiling water to steam or just pour boiling water over them for a quick blanch. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. Make tuna pasta salad dressing:  Mix the ingredients for the tuna pasta salad dressing (Italian Salad Dressing recipe below) in a small bow. 
  4. Mix ingredients:  Place the tuna with the water from the cans in a large bowl. With a fork, break up the tuna.  Add the pasta, celery, green onion, and peas.
  5. Toss ingredients in dressing:  Pour the tuna pasta salad dressing over the salad ingredients and gently toss to coat the ingredients well.
  6. Serve: Mound this cold tuna pasta salad on a platter and top with the chopped tomatoes, olives, and parsley. Toss all ingredients together just before serving so the tomatoes won’t get soggy.

Pasta Salad Dressing

  • Best Foods Mayonnaise (add more as needed)
  • Italian Salad Dressing (or you can use a good bottled Italian vinaigrette)

This pasta salad dressing is super easy to make!  Just add the ingredients to a bowl and whisk well. If it’s too thick, you can add a teaspoon or two of water to thin it out a bit.

bowl of cold tuna pasta salad

Variations to this Cold Pasta Salad

  • Use macaroni or corkscrew noodles instead of penne for a tuna macaroni salad
  • Add fresh dill or basil instead of parsley
  • Use black olives instead of kalamata
  • Gluten-free noodles instead of regular 
  • Add more pepperoncini
  • Toss in a few capers
  • Add a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese (because Parmesan cheese makes everything better)
  • Use salmon instead of tuna or chicken if you don’t like fish
  • Add more veggies and chickpeas and omit the fish altogether for a vegetarian pasta salad

bowl of cold tuna pasta salad

More Healthy Salad Recipes You’ll Love

Another cold pasta salad you might like is this Macaroni Salad with Ham and Cheese.  I have not eaten ham in many years, so when I make it for myself – I omit the ham altogether and add kalamata olives instead.

bowl of cold pasta salad
Yield: Serves 6 - 8

The Best Tuna Pasta Salad

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Hands-down this is The Best Tuna Pasta Salad I've ever had!   It's a cold pasta salad with Mediterranean flavors and features whole chunk light tuna (packed in water),  peas, celery, green onions, tomatoes, kalamata olives, pepperoncini and parsley.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups gluten-free rigatoni noodles (cooked al dente)
  • 2 (5 ounce) cans whole chunk tuna (packed in water )
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 4 green onions, finely sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1/4 cup pepperoncini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup Best Foods Mayonnaise (add more as needed)
  • 5 tablespoons Italian Vinaigrette (add more as needed)

Italian Vinaigrette

  • 2-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1-1/2 cups good extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to the package directions or until al dente, rinse under cold water and drain.
  2. Place the peas in a colander and pour boiling water over them. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. In a small bowl whisk the mayonnaise and Oregano Vinaigrette until well blended. (Or whisk the mayonnaise with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/4 teaspoon dried basil)
  4. Place the tuna in a large bowl. With a fork, break up the tuna.
  5. Add the pasta, celery, green onion, and peas. Pour the mayo/vinaigrette mixture over the ingredients and gently toss to coat the ingredients well. Mound on a platter and top with the chopped tomatoes, olives, parsley and pepperoncini.
  6. Toss all ingredients together just before serving so the tomatoes won't get soggy.

Italian Vinaigrette

  1. Combine the vinegar, oregano, lemon juice, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and pepper in a medium bowl and whisk to combine the ingredients.
  2. Set aside for 5 minutes to marinate the oregano and basil.
  3. Add the olive oil in a slow thin stream, whisking constantly to combine.
  4. If you're in a hurry, just add  all of the ingredients to a glass jar with a lid and shake to combine.

Notes

Variations to this Cold Tuna Pasta Salad

  • Use macaroni or corkscrew noodles instead of penne
  • Add fresh dill or basil instead of parsley
  • Use black olives instead of kalamata
  • Gluten-free noodles instead of regular 
  • Add more pepperoncini
  • Toss in a few capers
  • Add a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese (because Parmesan cheese makes everything better)
  • Use salmon instead of tuna or chicken if you don't like fish
  • Add more veggies and chickpeas and omit the fish altogether for a vegetarian pasta salad

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 413Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 473mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 6gSugar: 4gProtein: 11g

theharvestkitchen.com attempts to provide accurate information, however, this nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. The nutritional information provided comes from online sources and calculations.