Macaroni salad and potato salad are traditional cold side dishes for family gatherings in the South. Granny-Ma’s version was pretty basic — pretty much just elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, onions, celery, and sweet relish. When I met my husband’s family, Italians from the Northeast, I was introduced to tuna macaroni salad. I love canned tuna, so of course I fell in love with this version. It’s still pretty basic and so easy to make.
I prefer chunk light tuna for its flavor, but those who prefer a milder fish will want to use white albacore tuna. Flavored tuna in the pouch is another option to experiment with. You may also change it up by using canned chicken. I’ve also had it with broccoli in place of the sweet peas, and sometimes add chopped roasted red peppers for additional color.
Although elbow macaroni is traditional, I used mini farfalle. It’s just prettier. 🙂 You may use your favorite pasta shape, but I suggest sticking to smaller shapes.
This is a perfect make-ahead dish because refrigeration is necessary to meld the flavors. The dressing will soak into the pasta as it cools, so it’s not a sloppy salad. I think you’ll love it as much as I do.
Tuna Macaroni Salad Recipe
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
1 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound mini-farfalle (substitute macaroni or pasta of choice)
1-1/2 cups frozen baby sweet peas
1 cup diced celery (2 to 3 large stalks)
1 cup diced red onion
3 (6-ounces each) cans water-packed chunk light tuna or white albacore, drained of liquid
Whisk together mayonnaise, sweet pickly relish, balsamic vinegar, dill weed, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Cook macaroni (or other pasta) in salted water until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, bring a small pot of unsalted water to the boil. Add the frozen peas and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. (Do not overcook or the peas will not retain their vibrant green color and texture.)
Dice the celery and red onion. Set aside.
Pour the cooked macaroni into a colander and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle. Shake out all the water and place in a large bowl.
Add the cooked peas, onions, celery, and tuna to the macaroni. Fold in the mayonnaise dressing, trying not to break up the tuna too much. Taste for salt and adjust, if necessary.
Cover the tuna salad and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight for the flavors to meld.
Yield: 10 to 12 servings