Are you looking for a simple weeknight dinner you can make for your family – or maybe a great party dish that is colorful, tasty and can be made in advance? If so, try my easy Tuna Pasta Salad Niçoise! It’s a French twist on a classic pasta salad with canned tuna fish. This salad is bright, light and fresh in flavor and likely features many pantry staples you’ll have on hand at any time.
The key to making this Tuna Pasta Salad Niçoise is to simply use the best and freshest ingredients you can. I like imported Italian canned tuna fish packed in olive oil – there’s no comparing the flavor to the standard American brands. Similarly, be sure to use high quality olive oil in your salad dressing and fresh, tender vegetables. There are many ways you can adjust this salad to your tastes as well, such as adding sliced cherry tomatoes, hard boiled egg wedges, or even some boiled baby potatoes. Have fun with this basic recipe, then try making it your very own way! It also makes for great leftovers, once the flavors have had the chance to blend and merge in the fridge overnight.
Tuna Pasta Salad Niçoise
Preparation time: 30 minutes
3 cups pasta shapes (such as small shells, wheels or mezzi rigatoni)
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sweet bell peppers, thinly sliced
8 large olives, thickly sliced
6 rolled anchovies
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp coarse ground mustard
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder or to taste*
8 oz high quality canned or jarred tuna in olive oil (preferably Italian tuna)
Fresh basil leaves, hand-torn
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Curly endive or other crisp, bitter salad green, for serving
* It is traditional to use a fresh, raw garlic clove in Niçoise dressing, however I cannot because of my intolerance for raw garlic. I find powdered garlic a suitable alternative which does not give me indigestion and pain; however, feel free to use fresh if you can tolerate it/prefer it 🙂
Cook the pasta until al dente (approximately 10 minutes) then drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the onion, sweet bell pepper, olives and parsley. Wash lettuce, dry and use it to prepare a bed on each of your serving plates or bowls.
Prepare the vinaigrette by combining the anchovies, olive oil, garlic powder, white wine vinegar, and mustard in a food processor or small blender. Blend until smooth and combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked pasta, green beans, tuna, and all chopped vegetables and herbs. Add in vinaigrette slowly until the salad is well coated but not overly “wet”. Taste again to adjust salt and pepper as desired.
Scoop pasta salad onto serving bowls atop the lettuce. Add a pinch of torn basil to each plate. Serve with crusty French bread on the side.
Remember: Season every step of the recipe! I add salt during every step of this recipe: cooking the pasta and beans, making the dressing, tossing the ingredients and plating the final dish. This seasoning is crucial in gradually allowing flavors to build, instead of being “overpowered by salt” at the end of the preparation.