Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Pasta Salad with Tonnato (Tuna) Sauce

Pasta Salad with Tonnato (Tuna) Sauce

Ham and peas add scrumptiousness to this summer classic

Pasta salad is a summer staple. And why not? It’s loaded with flavor, easy to make, and generally delicious. Plus, you can prepare it ahead of time.

It’s also versatile – you can change up the ingredients or the pasta shape to make a new (yet comfortingly familiar) salad each time.

Just think of the pastabilities.


Pasta Salad with Tonnato (Tuna) Sauce

Recipe: Pasta Salad with Tonnato (Tuna) Sauce

A couple of weeks ago, we made Tonnato (Tuna) Sauce and Dip. At that time, we promised to use it as an ingredient in a summer dish. Well, here’s the recipe.

Tonnato Sauce is essentially tuna mayonnaise. For this recipe, we use it to replace both the mayo and the chunks of tuna in a traditional Tuna Pasta Salad. Then we amp up the flavor by adding cubes of ham, green peas, and diced red bell pepper. So we end up with a familiar (yet entirely new) dish.

This dish takes about 20 minutes to prepare if you have tonnato sauce on hand (increase that to 30 minutes if you have to make the tonnato sauce in addition to the salad).

This recipe serves about 4 as a main dish, or about twice that number as a side. Leftovers keep a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.

Ingredients
  • ½ to ¾ batch of Tonnato Sauce (or to taste) 
  • ½ pound dried pasta of an interesting shape (we like to use shells, but penne, farfalle, macaroni, or other shapes work too)
  • ~1 tablespoon kosher salt for seasoning the pasta water
  • 1 cup frozen peas (or more to taste)
  • ~½ cup red onion (or yellow, depending on how sharp you want the onion flavor to be)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups diced ham
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herb of choice (optional; we used dill for this dish, but see Notes)
  • salt to taste, if needed (see Notes)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste (about a dozen grinds for us)
  • garnish of herb or parsley (optional)
Procedure
  1. If you don’t have tonnato sauce on hand, make a batch using the instructions in the post we link to above (we usually make this sauce ahead of time and chill it).
  2. Next, cook the pasta: Fill a large cooking pot (one that holds at least 4 quarts) with water. Place it on the stovetop, cover, and turn the heat to high. When the water boils, add the salt (at least 1 tablespoon, or more if you like), then add the pasta. Stir the pasta once or twice so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat so the pasta cooks at a slow boil. Set a timer for 7 minutes. When the timer goes off, start testing the pasta to see if it’s done (you want it to be al dente – with a little resistance to the tooth). The pasta probably will still be a bit underdone after 7 minutes. Keep testing every minute until it’s almost done. When you think the pasta has another minute or two to go, add the peas. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, pour the pasta and peas into a colander and use the vegetable sprayer from your sink to douse them with cold water until they’re cool. Allow the pasta and peas to drain in the colander.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the onion and chop it into dice. Clean the red bell pepper and cut it into dice of about ¼ to ½ inch. Cut the ham into dice about the same size. 
  4. Add the diced onion, red bell pepper, and ham to a large mixing bowl. Add the cooled pasta-and-pea combo. Mix the contents of the bowl, then add enough of the tonnato sauce to bind all the ingredients together. 
  5. Mince your herb of choice (if using) and add it to the mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
  6. Taste the mixture, then add salt and pepper (the tonnato sauce is salty, so we’re guessing you might want little or no additional salt). 
  7. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container before serving. When we serve this pasta salad, we often garnish it with chopped parsley or some extra herb-of-choice.
Pasta Salad with Tonnato (Tuna) Sauce

Notes
  • Exact quantities aren’t critical for this recipe. We usually just eyeball the ingredients and measurements, then add enough of each ingredient until things look (and taste) right to us.
  • We like to use dill or parsley (or both) in this dish. But other herbs work well too. Basil, tarragon, thyme, or a mix of herbs would all be tasty. 
  • You can even skip the herbs if you prefer (but we like the flavor dimension they add).
  • Don’t want to use ham? You could use cooked pork or roast veal instead. Or skip the meat and substitute white beans. 
  • Red and yellow onions both work fine in this dish. Or you could substitute green onions, which are less sharp.
  • If the tonnato sauce seems too thick, you can thin it with olive oil (or yogurt or sour cream).
  • Tonnato sauce tends to be salty, so you may find that your pasta salad doesn’t need added salt.
  • We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we recommend. But always season to your taste, not ours.
Pasta Salad with Tonnato (Tuna) Sauce

Hamming it Up

“Yummacious,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Who knew that tuna and ham could get along so well?”

“It may sound a bit odd,” I said. “But it’s pasta-tively amazing.”

“That’s pastably your worst joke ever,” said Mrs K R.

“Well, I thought it was the real dill,” I said.

“I cannelloni laugh that you’d think that,” said Mrs K R.

OK. Better stop before things get too pre-pasta-rous.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Tonnato (Tuna) Sauce and Dip
Tuna Pasta Salad
Summer Pasta Salad (with Dill and Sour Cream)
Pasta, Bean, and Tuna Salad
White Bean and Tuna Salad
White Bean, Tuna, and Swiss Chard Salad
Lentil, Rice, and Pea Salad
Summer White Bean and Quinoa Salad
Or check out the index for more

66 comments:

  1. That looks very yummy and comforting. I gotta try that creamy tuna mayonnaise ASAP.

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    1. Hi Angie, that tonnato sauce (or dip!!) is amazing stuff -- really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Oh my! Another perfect dish for a steamy hot night!

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    1. Hi Anne, we made this when it was hot and steamy just because it's so refreshing. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Tuna and ham, never would've considered the together, but this dish looks and sounds delicious! And the peas and red onions make it really good! Who knew there were so many pastabilities! Take care

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    1. Hi Pam, tuna and ham sound like a weird combo. But it works! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  4. We knew you would have another fabulous recipe featuring your delicious tonnato tuna sauce. Fabulous dish to pass to any summer gathering.

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    1. Hi Bobbi, neat dish, huh? And SO good! Thanks for the comment.

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  5. There used to be a pasta maker here in Ann Arbor called Pastabilities -- so your pun sounded familiar. Tuna with pasta is a great combination, and I think you have embellished it beautifully.

    be well...mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Mae, that's kind of an ancient and creaky pun. Like us. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. It looks so bright and flavorful. Yum.

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    1. Hi Pam, especially the "yum" part. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Replies
    1. Hi R, all gone -- you'll have to make it yourself. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  8. This looks like it tastes like summer. Nice! And we are big fans of dill. Will have to try this.

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    1. Hi Terry, dill is so good, isn't it? That and mint are two of our favorite summer herbs. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. I haven’t ever tried tonnato sauce and I’m so intrigued as this looks like it would be a delicious summer dish! “Pasta-vely Yummacious!” :)

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    1. Hi Shashi, tonnato sauce isn't as popular these days as it should be, alas. SO worthy trying, though -- awesome flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. There is something about summer time and pasta salads that always has me thinking about picnics. Gotta make this for my next picnic

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    1. Hi Pat and Dahn, this is a wonderful picnic dish! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. The pasta looks amazing! Thanks for sharing delightful recipes. I am going to give it a shot soon! Have a great Summer!

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    1. Hi Sonia, it's totally good stuff. Terrific flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Amazing! Such a super easy recipe and so full of flavor! I look forward to making it with my salmon spread.

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    1. Hi Balvinder, your salmon spread would be splendid in this dish! I'll have to try that. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Althp' I do make tuna mayonnaise quite often I must admit I have not used it in any form of pasta salad. To each their own: methinks ham will not appear together with the fish tho' the salad sounds interesting . . . cannellini to bulk it up . . . perhaps :) ! An idea to be tried !

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    1. Hi Eha, the ham works pretty well in this, although it does sound a bit odd, I know. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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    2. *big smile* I am curious now - shall try ! Thanks !

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    3. Hi Eha, let me know how you like it! As I said, an odd pairing. But it works. At least I think it does. (Kind of like I thought scallops and bacon sounded weird until I tried it.)

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  14. Replies
    1. Hi Josiah, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  15. hi KR
    love your puns and your photos as usual. this salad sounds fabulous too. i love tuna! i wouldn't have thought of using ham too but clearly it's a winner:)

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    1. Hi Sherry, the ham DOES sound odd, but it works. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Beautiful pasta meal, full of colors and flavours, yum!

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    1. Hi Natalia, it's good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. I absolutely love peas and ham in a pasta salad. Reminds me of an old recipe that I can't find that we called "confetti salad". I did click over to the tonato sauce - sounds divine. Yes, I'm one of those who don't mind anchovies. Thanks John.

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    1. Hi Lea Ann, tonnato sauce can be used in so many things -- really good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Yey a tuna lover like me. :). Love this pasta salad.

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    1. Hi Nammi, canned tuna -- the good stuff, packed in olive oil -- is wonderful. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. John, a perfect dish for the very unusual warm weather we're having. I had to jump back to your Tonnato (Tuna) Sauce and Dip post for details and I'm sure glad I did. You've given me the inspiration for our Saturday lunch and indeed it does look and sound "Yummacious". Thanks for the inspiration...

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    1. Hi Ron, we love to inspire! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. I would have never thought to mix tuna and ham. You come up with the best combinations John. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Hi Gerlinde, weird combo, huh? But we like it! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. Nice use of one of my favorite sauces. GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, it's a wonderful sauce, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Pasta salad for these hot spiky days sounds interesting and I loved those clicks, they are so pretty with different colours. Awesome

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    1. Hi Hasin, we always have pasta salad several times every summer. Loads of flavor, and nice and cool. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  23. Well, that certainly is a versatile sauce, isn't it? Thanks John - would not have thought of this and I bet it was fantastic!

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    1. Hi David, there's a lot you can do with this sauce. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. What a perfect salad for a hot summer day and I learned a new tuna dip term - Tonato. Thanks for sharing and I am looking forward to packing some of this for my next hiking trip.

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    1. Hi Yi, this is really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. I've gotten this far into my life without ever coming across the word "pastabilities," and now it's going to become my favorite word!

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    1. Hi Jeff, happy to be of help. :D Thanks for the comment.

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  26. I love this twist on a tonnato. What an ideal summertime dish, too.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, isn't this nice? And SO good! Thanks for the comment.

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  27. What a wonderful use of your tonnato sauce and who doesn't like tuna and pasta? A wonderful dish and one I'm saving to make. Simple and tasty, just what we like. thanks John!

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    1. Hi MJ, this really has good flavor. Enjoy! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. What a lovely salad for the summer when we want to eat lighter and not put on the oven as frequently. I think everyone enjoys a good pasta salad.

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    1. Hi Judee, cool dish for hot days. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. I had never tried tonnato sauce, sounds delish. Will definitely give it a shot next time I make a pasta salad

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    1. Hi Raymund, tonnato sauce is really good. Makes a great dip. And it's great in pasta salad! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  30. That looks like an awesome plate of salad! Perfect for the weekday evenings!

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    1. Hi Sam, it's a quick and tasty dish -- really good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  31. It is definitely pasta salad season! Love the idea of the tonnato sauce on pasta salad. Perfect for hot summer days.

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    1. Hi Lisa, hot summer days are something you have a lot of experience with! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Oh yum, a perfect summer dish.
    Amalia
    xo

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    1. Hi Amalia, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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