This recipe let’s you whip up a fresh pasta salad, packed with the flavours of a traditional tuna nicoise salad, in no time without sacrificing flavour of nutrition.
This easy tuna pasta salad is a great springtime meal. Sat in the sun at home, gathered round a table of finger food, or eating out of a lunch box on a sunny day – it just feels right.
What’s in a ‘Salade nicoise’?
The classic salad comprises four main ingredients, each packing a great flavour – fresh and juicy tomatoes, rich and creamy boiled eggs, salty anchovies and, of course, sharp and intense nicoise olives!
It is a French recipe, originally from Nice and popular for over a century. It’s most common adaptations now are to swap out the anchovies for tuna, and to add texture filled veg like French beans and new potatoes.
The choice of dressing is more open to debate – I enjoy it equally with a classic balsamic vinegar that brings out the sharp flavours of olives and anchovies, but also with yoghurt or mayonnaise based dressings that complement the egg and make it a much richer more filling meal.
What tuna to use?? – pole caught please!
Canned tuna is fine for this recipe, we are trying, after all, to make a lunchbox salad not a meal on the Orient express.
Whilst there is plenty of very cheap canned tuna out there I try to be conscious of getting tuna that is both sustainable (as marked on the can) and either dolphin friendly or pole and line caught (meaning nod dangerous drift nets).
Yes this makes it 50p a can more expensive… But it’s also just better! More expensive tuna tends to be higher quality and more tasty meat too, which both looks and tastes far superior!
Modifications you can make
Don’t feel constrained by this recipe at all, it’s a great starting point. But there is so much room for fun and invention.
Add brocolli or sliced cucumber. Pop some rocket or spinach into the pasta. Some pancetta. More anchovies and less tuna…
Swap in a different dressing. Pop down croutons on top.
Whatever you want!
Tuna nicoise pasta salad
For the pasta salad
- 250g uncooked pasta
- 200-250g tuna (approximately 2 drained cans) you can use tuna in spring water or oil for this recipe, just cut back a little on the oil in the dressing if you do the latter
- 250g cherry tomatoes
- 1/3 cup black pitted olives
- 1/8 cup capers
- 3-4 boiled eggs
- 200g fine green beans
- 1 medium onion
- 4-5 anchovie fillets
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp olive oil
For the dressing
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp oregano
- salt and pepper add to taste
- Firstly, if you haven't, get your eggs boiling. We want the yolks to be set, hard boiled. For me the perfect boiled egg with a hard yolk takes about 6 minutes of boiling from the shelf, or 6:30-7:00 from the fridge. When they're boiled allow them to cool, and slice them up.
- Next, we need to boil the pasta. Add your 250g dry pasta to a pan and cover with water and a pinch of salt, cook according to packet instructions. Aim for al dente if you like it that way. When cooked, drain and add to a large mixing bowl.
- Prep all your veg now: Roughly slice your onions, chunky is good. Crush or finely chop the garlic. Top and tail your fine green beans. Half your tomatoes.
- Add the onion, garlic and fine green beans to a frying pan with you anchovie fillets and 1 tbsp of oil. Cook and stir for 4-5 minutes to slightly brown the beans and onions, and to dissolve the anchovies – these provide a rich and salty taste throughout the pasta that is really delicious.
- Tip the whole contents of this frying pan into your pasta bowl, scrape out all the juice and sauces which contain a lot of rich garlic and anchovy taste.
- Drain your tuna well, using the oil to make your dressing if you're using tuna in oil. Add the tuna and all your other pasta salad ingredients in and stir well, you can hold back a few slices of egg if you wish to use them to dress your plate!
- Make your dressing in a small bowl and mix well before pouring over the pasta salad, and tossing again to ensure well mixed.
- Serve immediately as a delicious and nutritious main, or package up in lunchboxes for the next couple of days!