Loaded with fresh veggies, herbs, tuna and feta and tossed in a tangy dressing, this gluten-free Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad will quickly become a summertime family favourite. It’s quick, easy, best made a day in advance and travels well because it’s mayo-free. Think of it more as a road map than a recipe, customizable with whatever you like or have in the fridge and pantry.
What You Need for this Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad
- Pasta: Jovial makes an excellent gluten-free pasta that’s perfect for this Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad. It holds its shape well and doesn’t have that gritty texture that other gluten-free pastas sometimes have.
As far as shapes go, fusilli is an ideal choice for pasta salads because of its bite-sized spirals, which helps to trap the dressing. Bow-tie (farfalle) or even orzo are also great choices.
- Tuna: Tuna is an excellent source of lean protein and will help turn this pasta salad into a more balanced meal. If tuna isn’t your thing, feel free to omit it or substitute with steamed shrimp or grilled chicken. Just keep in mind that if adding meat or seafood, the pasta salad will need to be kept cold.
- Cucumbers: I like English or Persian cucumbers for this recipe because they have a thin skin that isn’t bitter and doesn’t require peeling. You can substitute other varieties of cucumbers. Just give them a taste first to see if the skin needs to be peeled.
- Cherry Tomatoes: Give them a slice down the middle to expose some of the seeds and flesh. This way the juice of the tomatoes will interact with the salt and other ingredients and get incorporated into the dressing.
- Bell Pepper: I like green bell peppers here because they’re not overly sweet and have a great crunch. Feel free to use any colour bell pepper you like. Each one will add a different sweetness and taste to the pasta salad.
- Red Onion: I use red onion mostly for colour. You can substitute white or yellow. If your onion is particularly strong and bitter, try chopping it and rinsing under cold water for a few seconds to mellow out the flavour.
- Fresh Parsley: It will add a beautiful colour and flavour to the pasta salad.
- Olives: You can use any type of olive you like. I prefer Kalamata olives because they’re readily available and have a great texture, flavour and colour that works with the other ingredients. Just make sure you buy them pitted or remove the pits yourself before adding them to the Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad. The last thing you want is a to chip your tooth.
- Roasted Red Peppers: You can use jarred or freshly-roasted red peppers. I actually prefer jarred because they’re packed in a brine and add a bit of tang to the pasta salad.
- Feta Cheese: Firm, Greek feta is my cheese of choice for this Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad. It holds its shape, can be cut into cubes and doesn’t end up disintegrating as you toss it with the other ingredients. At the time of making this recipe I could only find Bulgarian feta, which tends to be a bit more crumbly. Still delicious, just a slightly different finished product.
Make the Dressing from Scratch
Skip the bottled stuff and make your dressing from scratch. It’s super easy, more affordable, requires only a few ingredients, and you can control what you put in it.
The main thing to consider is ratio. For an extra tangy dressing that will make your lips pucker (which is how I like it), use equal parts oil to acid. For medium tanginess, use 2 parts oil to 1 part acid. For a mild tanginess, use 3 parts oil to 1 part acid.
In the case of this pasta salad dressing, I like to use a combination of lemon juice and red wine vinegar for the acid for a more interesting flavour profile.
What You Need for the Dressing
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: For best results, use a good-quality extra-virgin olive oil.
- Fresh Lemon: Be sure to use both the zest and juice of the lemon. It will add an amazing flavour and aroma.
- Red Wine Vinegar: Lemon juice on its own can be a bit fruity so I like to add some red wine vinegar to give the dressing more of a punch.
- Garlic: Finely grate it with a microplane or crush it to form a paste. That way it dissolves into the dressing and gets completely distributed into every bite.
- Dry Oregano: Scrunch the oregano between your fingers to wake up some of the essential oils before adding it to the dressing. You’ll get a much better flavour and perfume from it this way.
- Onion Powder: Try adding a bit of onion powder to your pasta salad dressing for an extra layer of flavour. It will completely change things for the better.
Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad – Gluten-Free
For the Dressing:
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Zest and juice of one lemon around 2 tablespoons of juice
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic finely grated
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon dry oregano
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
For the Pasta Salad:
- 12 ounces gluten-free fusilli pasta such as Jovial brand, substitute favourite brand or shape
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 Persian cucumbers diced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 medium green bell pepper diced
- ½ small red onion diced
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup pitted kalamata olives halved
- ¼ cup sliced roasted red peppers substitute red piquillo peppers
- 5 ounces feta cheese crumbled
- 5- ounce can tuna packed in water or olive oil drained and roughly shredded
For the Dressing:
- In a bowl or mason jar, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, oregano, onion powder and black pepper. Whisk or shake until emulsified. Set aside until ready to use. Can be refrigerated up to five days – let come to room temperature before serving.
For the Pasta Salad:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with the kosher salt and add the pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente, usually 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse briefly under cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent it from clumping.
- Transfer the pasta a to a large bowl. Add the cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, onion, parsley, olives, red peppers, feta and tuna. Pour the dressing overtop and toss everything until combined. For best results, cover and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight before serving.