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.
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.
- 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)
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mince your herb of choice (if using) and add it to the mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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