Italian Tuna Pasta Salad

Looking to make a healthy salad but still craving a big comforting bowl of pasta?  Look no farther!  I experimented with making this wonderful and filling meal filled with savory tuna pasta salad with Italian flavors, tossed in leafy greens and topped with chopped almonds and parmesan cheese.  It was the perfect mix of hearty and healthy!

I’ve been trying to be good and come up with meals containing ingredients that I already have on hand, instead of going to the grocery store every single day for random ingredients.  Which means a lot of improvising and substituting.  I’m getting pretty good at it though!  At least better than what I used to be; it’s easier to intuitively tell what flavors will work together and what I can substitute in and out.  So every night I’ve been thinking of what’s in my pantry that I need to use up, and then I have a go at it!

Tonight I had some heirloom tomatoes that I had to use up, canned tuna, and some whole wheat Rotini.  I have absolutely no problem with cooking a big heaping bowl of pasta, but I knew that if I made only pasta for dinner I would make, and eat, way too much and I would regret it later.  So I figured I’d make about half the pasta I usually do and toss it in some greens to add some extra volume and fill me up faster.  I also had some olives, basil, and parmesan, which just screams Italian!  So Italian pasta salad it was!

No lie, this recipe was delicious.  Matt rated it a 7-8 out of 10 compared to my other recipes.  You could totally eat this for a cold lunch or serve it as an appetizer,  and you could mix up how much greens you add depending on whether you want to serve it as a pasta or a salad.  And most importantly, it filled me up and made me feel like I was eating something indulgent, but I wasn’t!

The only thing is I used more olive oil in this than I usually would, since I wanted to make sure there was enough of the sauce/dressing to cover the greens.  Next time I’ll try and use a minimal amount.  Feel free to use whatever amount of olive oil suits you!

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Italian Tuna Pasta Salad (serves 4-5)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb rotini pasta or similar
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 5 oz can of tuna (Italian tuna in olive oil works best)
  • 2 Tbsp minced olives
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped basil
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more for salting the pasta water
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus an additional 2 Tbsp
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Bag of salad greens

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, and reserve some of the pasta water in case you need to thin out the sauce.  Meanwhile heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add in the onion and cook until almost translucent, then add in the garlic and continue cooking an additional minute or two.  Add in the tuna and break apart.  Then, add in the tomatoes, olives, basil, peas, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Simmer for about 5-7 minutes and a nice sauce has formed.   Add in the pasta and parsley, and drizzle with the additional 2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Toss to combine.  Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.  If the sauce is too thick you can add some pasta water to thin it out.  Then put the pasta in a large bowl and leave in the fridge to cool for 15-20 minutes.  When cooled, toss with the bag of mixed greens and almonds, and squeeze over the juice from half a lemon.  Serve in bowls and top with shaved parmesan 🙂

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