Tuna Pasta Salad (pasta fredda con tonno)

This simple tuna pasta salad is full of Italian flavors, and very simple to prepare. Make it as a quick and light lunch or dinner, or a prep side dish for your cookouts.

Tuna pasta salad on a dark blue bowl.

Also know as pasta fredda con tonno this is not your typical tuna salad with pasta, mayonnaise and eggs. Our recipe is made in a very Italian-style, healthier, delicious and packed with mediterranean flavors. Serve it as a whole and complete meal or bring it to your potlucks!

A closeup on tuna pasta salad.

What pasta format to use

You can use any shape of pasta you have available, but short pasta is the best when it comes to pasta fredda recipes. My favorite types are:

  • PENNE: Means ‘quill’ or ‘pen’, a pasta shaped into a cylinder and cut at an angle that resemble its name.
  • FUSILLI: Also know as rotini, this pasta is shaped into a corkscrew. It’s one of the most used pasta types for salads.
  • FARFALLE: It means “butterflies” because the shape resembles two wings. Is also know in other countries as bow-tie pasta. It comes in various sizes and takes the name accordingly (farfalline=little butterflies, farfallone=big butterflies, etc).
  • MACARONI: In Italy you’ll find them with many names, such as rigatoni, mezze maniche, chifferi, pipe rigate, lumaconi, etc. All of them are a type of pasta with a tubular shape.
Chifferi pasta (raw).
Chifferi rigati pasta

The ingredients needed

  • PASTA: Get any short pasta shape you prefer, we’re using in this recipe chifferi.
  • TUNA: I used canned tuna in olive oil. If you want to cut off calories, use water canned tuna instead.
  • CHEESE: Mozzarella is always a first option when it comes to cold pasta salads here in Italy. I am using here mozzarelline (also know as pearl mozzarella). You can also cut a larger mozzarella into small bites or use other type of cheese, such as provola, scamorza, primo sale, or even parmigiano flakes.
  • TOMATOES: We using cherry tomatoes, but actually any kind works just fine. Cut them into quarters or small chunks, you can discard the seeds if you want.
  • OLIVES: Black olives adds a nice sweet touch to this tuna pasta salad. If you want a different flavor, add other type of olives, such as Greek, stuffed, Kalamata, etc. Any type you prefer as long as they’re pitted.
  • EXTRAS: This is totally optional because tuna pasta salad is just delicious with few ingredients, but if you have any of the follow items in your pantry, add them: Artichokes, sound dried tomatoes, bell peppers, or zucchini packed in olive oil, they’re called sott’olio or sottaceti in Italian and they’re basically vegetables packed in olive oil and/or vinegar.
Tuna pasta salad ingredients displayed in a marble surface.

The dressing

A simple “Italian dressing” is made with just two basic, yet high-quality, ingredients, that’s it: Extra virgin olive oil and wine vinegar. Salt and pepper complete the dressing, and from here you can add a touch of your own preferences, such as lemon juice, sugar, chili flakes, and any herb you prefer. My favorite herbs for this tuna pasta salad are parsley, basil, and oregano (dried).

Olive oil in a bottle and ingredients for dressing in a jar.

The Recipe

Start by preparing the dressing. Place extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, fresh herbs, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper in a jar. Close the lid and shake it until everything is emulsified. Set aside.

Closeup on the emulsified dressing.

Cook pasta following the instructions in the package. Drain it (do not rinse it!) and place it in a large bowl. Pour half of the dressing and toss to coat well. Allow pasta to cool down while continuing with the recipe.

Cooked pasta on a bowl, coated with dressing.

Cut tomatoes into quarters. If you using regular tomatoes, cut them into small chunks, add to the bowl. Cut artichokes into chunks and also add to the bowl. Add mozzarelline and olives too, but do not mix yet.

Added mozzarelline and olives to bowl.

NOTE: If you using regular mozzarella or other type of cheese, cut it into small bites and add it to the bowl alongside with olives. I like to add whole olives, but if you want you can also cut them in half or slice them.

Now, pour over the remaining dressing (give it a good shake first) and toss very well to coat everything. Adjust with seasonings.

Mixing tuna pasta salad on a bowl.

Add tuna and mix gently. Serve immediately or cover and store in the fridge until is time to serve. This tuna pasta salad can be eaten cold or at room temperature.

Italian tuna pasta salad on a bowl.

Store & Prep Ahead

Place tuna pasta salad leftovers in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also prepare all ingredients, including cooking pasta and making the dressing, the day before. Then just toss everything together the next day and enjoy.

Other Italian Salads You Might Like

Tuna pasta salad.

Tuna Salad With Pasta

This simple tuna pasta salad is full of Italian flavors, and very simple to prepare. Make it as a quick and light lunch or dinner, or a prep side dish for your cookouts.
PREP 8 minutes
COOK 12 minutes
TOTAL 20 minutes
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 4
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

  • 14 oz macaroni
  • 2 5-oz cans of tuna packed in olive oil (or 3 small cans)
  • 10.5 oz pearl mozzarelline (or mozarella cut into bites)
  • 1 lb cherry tomatoes (cut into quarters)
  • black olives (pitted)
  • roasted artichokes in olive oil (cut into chunks)

For dressing

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh herbs (parsley, basil, etc.)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Place extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, fresh herbs, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper in a jar. Close the lid and shake it until everything is emulsified. Set aside.
  • Cook pasta following the package instructions. Drain and place it in a large bowl.
  • Pour half of the dressing and toss to coat. Allow pasta to cool down.
  • Add tomatoes, artichokes, mozzarelline and olives to the bowl.
  • Pour over the remaining dressing and mix to coat well. Adjust with salt and pepper.
  • Drain well tuna and add it to the bowl. Gently toss the salad and serve.

NOTES

*This salad can be served as a whole meal for 4 people or as a side dish for up to 8.
Nutrition
Calories: 811kcal | Carbohydrates: 79g | Protein: 48g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 614mg | Potassium: 623mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 610IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 310mg | Iron: 3mg
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