Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad

published Jul 23, 2023
Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe

Tuna salad meets pasta salad in this light and creamy mash-up that's the perfect side for a picnic or cookout.

Serves4 to 10

Makesabout 3 quarts

Prep20 minutes

Cook10 minutes to 15 minutes

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silver spoon, bow tie boodles, peas, close up on bowl, shredded cheese, flaky tuna
Credit: Kelli Foster

If you love tuna salad, you’ve got to make this tuna pasta salad. Here, bowtie pasta is tossed with a light and creamy, lemony dressing and mixed with flakes of meaty tuna, crunchy celery, fresh dill, and tender peas for an easy pasta salad. It is truly the best of both worlds, and a must for summer cookouts and picnics.

Ingredients That Go into Tuna Pasta Salad

  • Dried farfalle pasta. Any short pasta will do the job, but bow ties are the most fun.
  • Canned tuna. Use your favorite water- or oil-packed canned tuna. 
  • Shallots. Diced shallot adds mild aromatic flavor and a gentle crisp bite.
  • Celery. Adds a crunchy contrast to the pasta and tuna.
  • Fresh dill. Fresh herbs not only lighten up the creamy dressing, but also add a pop of green for a pretty touch.
  • Frozen peas. No need to thaw them. Just add to the bottom of the colander before draining the pasta water. 
  • Mayonnaise. This serves as a flavorful base for the creamy dressing.
  • Plain yogurt. Instead of all mayo for the dressing, using plain yogurt keeps it from being too rich.
  • Dijon mustard. The tang of the mustard cuts through the richness of the mayo for a more balanced dressing.
  • Lemon. A combo of lemon zest and juice adds brightness and acidity to keep the pasta salad light.

How To Make Tuna Pasta Salad

Tuna pasta salad comes together in five simple steps and takes no more than 20 minutes all-in. 

  1. Cook pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the dried farfalle pasta according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, you’ll have plenty of time to stir together the dressing and chop the vegetables.
  2. Make dressing. Stir together the mayonnaise, plain yogurt, Dijon mustard, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  3. Prep vegetables and tuna. Add diced shallot, celery, and dill to the dressing. Drain the tuna, add to the bowl, and break up any large chunks. 
  4. Drain pasta. Add the frozen peas to the bottom of the colander and drain the pasta over the peas. Rinse with cool water and drain well.
  5. Stir together. Add the pasta and peas to the bowl and stir to combine.

How to Make the Creamiest Dressing for Tuna Pasta Salad

The best dressing for tuna pasta salad is incredibly creamy and flavorful, without being too rich or heavy. This version checks all the boxes, plus it’s easy to mix together with a few basic ingredients. It combines mayonnaise, plain yogurt, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, and lemon juice for a tuna pasta salad dressing that’s light, bright, and super creamy.

Credit: Kelli Foster

Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe

Tuna salad meets pasta salad in this light and creamy mash-up that's the perfect side for a picnic or cookout.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Makes about 3 quarts

Serves 4 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 pound

    dried farfalle or campanelle pasta

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1/2 cup

    mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup

    plain yogurt (not Greek)

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 (5- to 6-ounce) cans

    water or oil-packed tuna

  • 2

    medium shallots

  • 2

    medium celery stalks

  • 1/2

    small bunch fresh dill

  • 1 cup

    frozen peas

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add 1 pound dried farfalle pasta and cook according to package directions until just tender, 10 to 13 minutes. Meanwhile, make the dressing and prepare the remaining ingredients.

  2. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon into a large bowl (about 1 tablespoon). Juice the lemon until you have 2 tablespoons and add to the bowl. Add 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and stir to combine.

  3. Prepare the following, adding each to the dressing as it is completed: Drain 2 cans tuna and and break up any large chunks of tuna with a fork. Dice 2 medium shallots (about 1/2 cup). Dice 2 medium celery stalks (about 1/2 cup). Finely chop the fronds and tender stems from 1/2 small bunch fresh dill until you have 2 tablespoons. Stir to combine.

  4. When the pasta is ready, add 1 cup frozen peas to a colander. Drain the pasta over the peas and rinse with cold water to cool. Drain well. Add the pasta and peas to the bowl and toss to coat.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The salad can be made up to a few hours ahead and refrigerated.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.