Tuna Pasta Salad With Tomatoes & Crushed Olives

May 24, 2022
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Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Molly Fitzsimons. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

This dish is a far cry from the lackluster, mayo-laden tuna macaroni salad that few people want at the barbecue. (All love for mayo; I just don’t want it on my pasta.) I want a pasta salad that is bright, punchy, and savory. This one takes its inspiration from puttanesca, the pungent, briny Neapolitan tomato sauce flavored with garlic, capers, olives, anchovies, and red pepper flakes. It’s a little in your face, but that’s its charm.

For this summery take, I celebrate the joy of peak-season tomatoes by leaving them raw. You’ll use two whole pounds of the ripest tomatoes you can find, which make this feel more like a salad with pasta than a pasta dish. The salad gets a major burst of flavor from a sizzled garlic-caper-anchovy-chile oil, plus protein and extra richness from oil-packed tuna. I like to top each serving with a handful of arugula, for a hit of peppery freshness.

While you can of course dig in immediately, this is also a great make-ahead dish. Bring it to the beach, bring it to a picnic, or eat it straight out of the fridge on your couch. Try this pasta salad alfresco with an ice-cold spritz and you might, for a brief moment, think you’re on the coast of southern Italy. —Megan Litt

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds ripe cherry tomatoes, halved (and/or heirloom tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 pound short pasta, such as campanelle or fusilli
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley (from about 1 small bunch)
  • 1 cup Castelvetrano olives
  • 2 (5-ounce) cans oil-packed tuna
  • 5 ounces arugula, for serving
  1. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the red wine vinegar, toss to combine, and set aside to marinate.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a handful of salt and the pasta; cook the pasta according to the package directions until it’s 1 minute past al dente, then drain well.
  3. While the pasta cooks, add the oil and garlic to a small saucepan and set it over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and begins to turn lightly golden, swirling the pot occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add the capers, anchovies, and red pepper flakes and continue to cook, stirring, until the anchovies have melted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
  4. While the oil cools for a few minutes, roughly chop the parsley leaves and tender stems (to yield about ¾ cup). Pit the olives and tear them into bite-size pieces.
  5. Add the warm oil to the tomatoes, along with the tuna (and any oil from the cans), olives, and parsley. Stir to combine and break up the tuna. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add additional salt, red pepper flakes, or vinegar to taste. To serve, top each serving with a handful of arugula and a drizzle of fresh olive oil.

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