This best Italian cold tuna pasta salad is exactly what you need in hot weather. A light, bright, cheerful, tasty dish with an Italian character
My first meeting with Italian cold tuna pasta salad (Pasta fredda)
Once upon a time, more than 20 years ago, I went to sunny Italy for the first time. It was the distant year 2000 and Catholic youth from all over the world traveled to Rome to celebrate World Youth Day. For me (at that time a 16-year-old Ukrainian teenager), this was the second “serious” trip abroad, and I was full of enthusiasm, delight, dreams, positive mood and interest trying to remember every moment of my Italian adventure. Who would have imagined then that after some 7 years fate would introduce me to a beautiful Italian young man Roberto, soon we would get married and I would move to live with him in one of my favorite places on the planet – the Eternal City of Rome yes. .. our life is very unpredictable and that’s great! You never know what surprise awaits you.
But let’s go back to 2000…
On the way to Rome, our group managed to visit picturesque Florence, romantic Venice and stay for a week in the unique Genoa, where local parishioners hospitably welcomed us to their homes. My 3 friends and I were lucky enough to spend that Genoese week in the cozy house of Signora Laura. From morning to evening, together with our group, we visited interesting places, meetings, admired the sea, and in the evening, when the scorching August Italian sun was hiding behind the horizon and the air finally became cooler, we dined in Signora Laura’s garden. I still remember the scent of flowers around her house (so exotic and unseen for me then). As well as a water mattress (with which I never made friends), a white pizza with Nutella for breakfast, the aroma of real Italian coffee and our first Italian dinner Signora Laura hospitably laid a table for us in her garden, prepared various Italian snacks, cut beautiful cubes of focaccia, put a large bouquet of fresh roses in the middle of the table…
…and then she brought it – the Italian cold tuna pasta salad.
”It’s so hot today, so I made some Pasta Fredda”, Signora Laura said with a smile on her face. Then she removed the bouquet of roses from the center of the table, and proudly put a large salad bowl with summer pesto pasta salad in its place.
At that time, my knowledge of Italian culture (culinary included) was based exclusively on information from primitive women’s magazines, some television programs (I can only say that in those years Ukrainian television was far from its heyday) and “folk” stories. I firmly believed that Italians eat only pasta… for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Moreover, almost every time a plate of spaghetti appeared in my imagination, with some red sauce poured on top of it and … oh, horror! … I was sure that the red sauce was ketchup … and even at home we cooked spaghetti with ketchup and could not understand why the Italians love them so much …
Therefore, my friends and I knew in advance that there would definitely be some kind of pasta dish for dinner…
But we didn’t think at all that we would be treated to cold pasta (Pasta fredda means “cold pasta”) … I’ll explain better: back in 2000, in my head (like in the heads of many of my compatriots) there was a theorem: cold pasta = pasta that wasn’t eaten in time, it got cold, and now it needs to be reheated again, because cold pasta has stuck together and is not suitable for consumption… And here cold pasta is served to guests! My friends and I first looked at each other, and then our gaze slowly moved to the salad bowl in the center of the table. And, you know … the eyes didn’t want to leave this cold tuna pasta salad bowl anymore…
… and I fell in love with that cold tuna pasta salad
It wasn’t the colorless, sad, cold pasta I’d imagined … it was a real artistic picture with an Italian character – bright, fresh, colorful, cheerful! Juicy tomatoes, generously heated by the Italian sun, tender and at the same time outstanding taste of tuna, sweet corn, salted olives, fresh basil and pasta “al dente”, which perfectly balanced the taste of all other ingredients. That tomato pesto pasta salad captivated my friends and me forever! We ate a whole salad bowl that evening and were so happy when a few days later Signora Laura prepared the cold pasta salad for us again. It’s just perfect in the summer heat. You don’t want any hearty dishes, hot soups or stewed meat, you want an Italian pasta salad… well, also a glass of cool wine and ice cream for dessert.
This pasta fredda recipe is very flexible
You can modify pasta fredda recipe according to your preferences. There are many types of this dish. By changing the ingredients, you will paint a new culinary picture every time. And every time it will be delicious!
Signora Laura’s tomato pesto pasta salad holds a special place in my heart, as the first love that is never forgotten so most often I prepare this dish according to her recipe. And immediately the mood becomes bright, and thoughts are light, like a fresh summer breeze…
Ingredients for the best Italian cold tuna pasta salad:
If you are a happy digital kitchen scale owner, I highly recommend using it instead of cups and spoons. Especially when it comes to baking recipes. A scale gives you far more accurate results than volume measurements (everyone scoops ingredients differently). Trust me, using a kitchen scale to measure ingredients will take your baking to a new level.
- pasta (any of your choice will be suitable, except for long formats such as spaghetti and tagliatelle)
- canned tuna
- leaves of fresh basil
- black olives
- canned sweet corn
- pesto sauce
- olive oil
How to make pasta fredda
Cook the pasta in salted water until it is “al dente” (firm to the bite). I usually cook it 2 minutes less than the time indicated on the package and strain
Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, Pesto sauce, mix well and let it cool
Chop the basil leaves (I always tear them into small pieces with my hands) and add to the pasta
Cut the tomatoes into medium-sized pieces and put them in a large salad bowl
Add canned tuna (together with its oil) and olives to the tomatoes (cut each olive into rings)
Add canned sweetcorn
Add the pasta with pesto and basil and mix everything well.
Bon Appetit! Or even better Buon appetito
Useful tips to make the perfect Italian summer pesto pasta salad
- don’t overcook pasta: nothing can spoil pasta fredda as much as overcooked pasta;
- as soon as the pasta is cooked add only oil and pesto sauce to it. Cool your pasta before adding the other ingredients;
- let the summer pesto pasta salad sit before you serve it (the ingredients need time to “make friends” with each other).
Best Italian cold tuna pasta salad (Pasta fredda)
- 5 oz (150g) tomatoes
- 10 oz (300g) pasta (any of your choice will be suitable, except for long formats such as spaghetti and tagliatelle)
- 4 oz (100g) canned tuna
- 10-20 leaves of fresh basil
- 4 oz (100g) black olives
- 4 oz (100g) canned sweet corn
- ⅔ cup (200g) pesto sauce
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- Cook the pasta in salted water until it is “al dente” (firm to the bite). I usually cook it 2 minutes less than the time indicated on the package and strain
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, Pesto sauce, mix well and let it cool
- Chop the basil leaves (I always tear them into small pieces with my hands) and add to the pasta
- Cut the tomatoes into medium-sized pieces and put them in a large salad bowl
- Add canned tuna (together with its oil) and olives to the tomatoes (cut each olive into rings)
- Add canned sweetcorn
- Add the pasta with pesto and basil and mix everything well.