Zippy Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe

While pasta salads can be enjoyed all year round, summertime is when they really take center stage. Great for packed lunches, trips to the beach, picnics, or barbecues, nothing can beat the satisfaction of a fresh and filling pasta salad. This zippy tuna pasta salad recipe is perfect for those who enjoy bright and lively flavors in a dish that comes together in under half an hour. It can be enjoyed on its own, with a simple salad, or as a side dish to eat alongside other summer cookout delights like burgers and barbecued meats.

The salad dressing is surprisingly light while being both deliciously creamy and zingy. It's packed with herbs as well to give it a freshness that pairs wonderfully with the tuna. Recipe developer Jennine Rye has also added a paprika crumb topping to add crunch and a sweet, smoky flavor to this tuna pasta salad — an addition you'll agree takes this tuna pasta salad up a notch or two. Read on to find out how quick and easy it is to assemble this zippy tuna pasta salad.

Gather the ingredients for the zippy tuna pasta salad recipe

To make this tuna pasta salad recipe, first, you will want to gather the ingredients. You will need fusilli pasta, crème fraiche, mayonnaise, a lemon, dill, basil, canned tuna, a red onion, canned corn, and salt and pepper. Additionally, to create the paprika crumb topping, you will want fresh breadcrumbs and ground paprika.

While this recipe uses canned tuna for cost efficiency and ease of use, if you fancy taking the dish up a level or two, you can swap out the canned tuna for freshly grilled tuna, adding extra flavor and richness to your pasta salad. Additionally, you will want to avoid using canned tuna that is oil-based, or else the pasta salad will end up oily and heavy. Rye recommends using canned tuna packed in either spring water or brine to make the most of this delicious dish.

Cook the pasta

Before beginning any pasta dish, it is good to consider the best shape of pasta for your specific recipe. Although long thin pasta such as spaghetti and tagliatelle may be perfect for silky sauces, for a pasta salad, fusilli is an ideal choice. It is sturdy enough that it won't fall apart while mixing, and its twisted shape captures all the delicious goodness of the pasta's salad dressing. Additionally, its short and chunky shape pairs well with the chunks of tuna, corn, and onion. 

To perfectly prepare your pasta, cook it according to the package instructions until the pasta is al dente. Drain it well, and then rinse it through with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Toast the breadcrumbs

If you want to step up your pasta salad game, it is important to consider toppings. Chopped fresh herbs are always a delicious option, but they don't add much texture to the dish. Crispy, flavored breadcrumbs make for a tasty and easily portable topping option, and best of all, they only take 5 minutes to make. Simply mix fresh breadcrumbs with ground paprika, and then spread them out onto an oven tray. Place them in a heated oven until they are crisp and turning golden, then set them aside to cool. Once cooled, transfer them to an airtight container until they are ready for use.

Mix the dressing

The dressing is what gives this tuna pasta salad its huge punch of zippy flavor — it really is the heart of the dish that pulls all the ingredients and tastes together. To make the sauce, simply add crème fraiche, mayonnaise, fresh dill, fresh basil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to a bowl, and then mix everything together with a spoon until it is combined. The crème fraiche, lemon juice, and herbs give this pasta salad a really zesty, bright, and fresh flavor you are sure to love.

Mix together the pasta salad

Once the pasta has been cooked and the salad dressing has been prepared, it is simply a matter of combining everything besides the toasted paprika breadcrumbs. Add the pasta to the dressing mixture, along with the drained canned tuna, the chopped red onion, and the drained corn. Then, using a wooden spoon, just mix everything together until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and coated in the delicious, zippy dressing.

Rye recommends keeping the paprika breadcrumbs separate until serving this tuna pasta salad to keep them nice and crisp. Once you are ready to enjoy it, simply sprinkle some of the toasted crumbs on top and dig in! 

Store any leftovers of the tuna pasta salad in the fridge in an airtight container, and make sure to consume it within 3 days. Store the paprika breadcrumbs in an airtight container at room temperature.

Zippy Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe
5 from 57 ratings
This zippy tuna pasta salad recipe is perfect for those who enjoy bright and lively flavors in a dish that comes together in under half an hour.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Bowl of tuna pasta salad
Total time: 25 minutes
  • 8 ounces fusilli pasta
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ cup crème fraiche
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 (10-ounce) can of tuna in water or brine, drained
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 (5-ounce) can of corn
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Boil a large pan of salted water and then cook the pasta according to the packet's instructions, until pasta is al dente. Drain, then run under cool water to stop the cooking process.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the fresh breadcrumbs with the ground paprika and then spread the mixture onto a medium-sized baking tray.
  4. Bake for 5 minutes until the crumbs are crisp and golden. Transfer to a bowl and set to one side.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together the crème fraiche, mayonnaise, fresh chopped dill, fresh chopped basil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Add the cooled pasta, the drained tuna, the chopped red onion, and the corn to the bowl.
  7. Mix everything throughly.
  8. Serve the pasta salad topped with the crisp breadcrumbs.
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