I cannot even count how many times that I have relied on this salad in the summertime to provide just what I needed after a long, busy day! I used to just about LIVE on this years ago when it was a treat to afford. I could stretch it out and make it last for 3-4 days! No one could pinch a penny until Lincoln’s eyeballs popped out like me! Not that I’m cheap, mind you, I would’ve given my last dime and shirt off of my back if I thought you had needed it more. But to survive, you have to eat. And this dish was one of the more healthy dishes I came up with to include what a body needs and that I could afford. Lots of protein from the tuna and hard-boiled egg, energy from the carbs, and even snuck in the green peas! I HATED peas, oh gawd how I hated peas!, until I tried the sweet, plump, early baby peas! All I had ever had were those teeny, hard, dark green, withered, mushy peas that made me gag and have to gulp down gallons of milk with just to swallow them down when I was a kid. Yuck. Yuck, yuck, yuck. But these are completely different! I never even cook them if they’re frozen. I just add them last and fold them in. They only take a minute to thaw even if what you’re adding them to isn’t hot or even warm. I don’t even mind the sweet, early baby peas in the can, either! They’re plump and have a nice “pop” in your mouth when you crunch them, and truly are sweet! Just drain them from the salt-laden juice, and gently fold them in last, too, to whatever you’re making. Even if you’re a pea-hater like me, trust me on this, they’re good!
Ok, pea rant over now! Next that I can tell you, is to use a decent pasta. Pasta is cheap, so there really isn’t a “splurge” when it comes to noodles! Other than homemade or fresh/frozen, about the only dried, boxed kind I’m ever happy with is Barilla. They don’t pay me to say this. I’ve never even received a coupon from them. But, I can tell you this, if I did, my whole entire house inside and out would be finished by now based on the truckloads I’ve probably bought from them over the last 15-20 years! Lesser brands just do not cook up right and you will end up with mushy, grainy weirdness. Even cooked al dente, the result will be less than desirable. And once the rest of ingredients are added, it will only get worse. Just find a brand that holds up well for you, too. There’s nothing worse than mushy, overcooked pasta salad, either. One of the main reasons some people swear it off completely. Never overcook pasta! Even if you don’t care for it “al dente”, tender is one thing, and cooking until it’s just plain slimy is another. Cook to the shortest time, then check frequently after that. Pasta can overcook in a matter of even 1 minute. Lastly, buy a decent can of tuna. Watch the label that it really is ALL tuna (solid white albacore if possible), and that you don’t accidentally buy it packed in oil. Packed in water is best for this anyways. Drain it very well to again lose added salts and preservatives, and break it up in the can before adding so additional stirring doesn’t wreck your noodles. This recipe is also a wonderful treat made with grilled fresh tuna steaks, too, rather than canned. But this is just the traditional, quick and easy version of the refreshing salad that I have loved for so many years. You can add any ingredients that you prefer, and leave out any that you don’t care for yourself. As always, a recipe is just a guideline. Most important, is to always make things to your own liking. I hope this salad is added to your picnic table during the upcoming summer season! It not only makes for a wonderful meal all on it’s own for lunches or light suppers, but it’s also a nice side dish and pot luck dish to make and take to backyard barbecues, too.
LEMON-DILLED TUNA PASTA SALAD with RED ONIONS and BABY PEAS
4 cups uncooked rotini pasta, or pasta of choice such as macaroni or farfalle (bow-ties)
2 Tbl. salad oil, canola or vegetable
1 (12 oz.) can solid white albacore tuna in water, drained well
1/2 chopped red onion, chopped small
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 Tbl. sour cream
1 Tbl. lemon juice concentrate
1 tsp. dried dill
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup frozen or canned baby peas, (unthawed/drained)
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Cook rotini pasta in boiling water according to package directions adding 1 tsp. salt to water. Drain well, rinse with cold water to stop cooking process, drain well again and dump into large mixing bowl. Add salad oil and toss well to coat. This will act as a blocker and help to prevent the mayo from seeping into the pasta too much. Add rest of ingredients except peas and eggs. Fold well until all is mixed and noodles are well-coated. Fold in peas gently. Sprinkle with chopped hard-boiled egg when serving. (Refresh the next day with a splash of milk and more salt if needed.) 6-8 servings.