Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Last Night's Dinner: Warm Pasta Salad with Tuna & Other Things

It hasn't been very long since I last posted about a pasta salad type of meal, but I find the light-yet-satisfying nature of these dishes perfect for this time of year. They're quick, easy, and also super versatile, and since you can add basically anything you want, you won't get sick of them. Adding a "fancy" salad ingredient like marinated peppers, artichokes, or kalamata olives will make your version seem much more sophisticated than the actual effort that went into it. Which is always nice.

For this one I tossed together:
1/2 box of whole wheat Rotini, about 7 oz
2 cans of tuna, packed in water, drained
1 green onion, cut on the bias
3 pepperoncini, thinly sliced (medium-hot peppers, sometimes called Tuscan peppers)
handful or two of chopped asparagus
a few marinated artichoke hearts
salt and pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Add the asparagus for the last minute of cooking time, then drain.
2. In a large bowl, combine about a tablespoon of olive oil, a drizzle of juice (vinegar) from the pepperoncini jar (or regular vinegar if not using peppers), salt and pepper. Add tuna, and break it up.
3. Add pasta, asparagus, and remaining ingredients to bowl and toss until completely coated with dressing. Add more oil and/or vinegar if needed.

Instead of the pepperoncini you can use their less spicy cousins, banana peppers, or even marinated bell peppers if you prefer. Personally I'm all about spicy food lately, so I was more than a little bit excited about the peppers. I ate two of them whole - seeds and all - while I was preparing dinner, which caused Brady a little bit of shock and horror. It was worth it. 

I didn't actually think about adding balsamic vinegar until we were ready to eat, so I just served it alongside. It worked out fine, but I think the flavor would be better dispersed if it were combined with the other dressing ingredients from the beginning. The sweet tartness of the vinegar is a nice contrast with the mildness of the tuna. This is something that Italians have known... possibly forever. In the opinion of the Food Network, this is what an Italian tuna salad is, but in my experience it is something too delicious to describe. But I'll try anyway. In another post, someday.

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