Pasta fredda con tonno is a traditional Italian tuna pasta salad prepared without mayonnaise and packed with Mediterranean flavors.
The recipe is very easy to make and is perfect as a quick and light lunch, dinner, or a prep-ahead side dish for summer cookouts.
What Is Pasta Fredda?
Pasta fredda is a traditional Italian dish that translates to “cold pasta” in English. There are many ways of preparing cold pasta in Italy but the most common is tossed with vegetables, cheese, cold meats, and tuna.
The recipe we are introducing to you in this post is also known as pasta fredda con tonno which is translated into tuna pasta salad and is made in a very Italian style, healthy, delicious, and packed with Mediterranean flavors.
This Italian tuna salad is the perfect make-ahead dish for potlucks, casual parties, picnics, and weekly meal prep because it can sit out at room temperature for many hours, and taste fabulous even after a couple of days!
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 resembles its name.
- FUSILLI: This pasta is also known as rotini and 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 known 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.
The Ingredients and Substitutions
- 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 the first option when it comes to cold pasta salads here in Italy. I am using here mozzarelline (also known as pearl mozzarella). You can also cut a larger mozzarella into small bites or use another type of cheese, such as provola, scamorza, primo sale, or even Parmigiano flakes.
- TOMATOES: We use 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 add a nice sweet touch to this Italian tuna pasta. If you want a different flavor, add another 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 this pasta fredda is just delicious with few ingredients, but if you have any of the following 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.
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 Italian tuna pasta are parsley, basil, and dried oregano.
How To Make Pasta Freda Con Tonno
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.
Cook your 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.
Cut cherry tomatoes into halves and quarters. If you are using regular tomatoes, cut them into small chunks and add them to the bowl. Cut artichokes into chunks and also add them to the bowl. Add mozzarelline and olives too, but do not mix yet.
NOTE: If you using regular mozzarella or another type of cheese, cut it into small bites and add it to the bowl along 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 seasonings to taste.
Add tuna and mix gently. Serve immediately or cover and store in the fridge until it’s time to serve. This Italian pasta salad can be eaten cold or at room temperature.
Make-Ahead And Store
As we mentioned before, this pasta fredda is a marvelous make-ahead dish. If you want to take it for a potluck or have some leftovers, just make sure to store it in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of hours or in the fridge for up to 3 days.
You can also prepare all ingredients 1 or 2 days ahead like vegetables, pasta, and the dressing. Coat pasta with a bit of oil to prevent it from drying out, then store everything in separated containers.
Later, just toss everything together and enjoy your Italian pasta salad!
Pasta Fredda Con Tonno
- 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)
- 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)
- 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.
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