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The Tastiest Tuna Rotini Pasta Salad

Tuna Rotini Pasta Salad combines rotini pasta, fresh cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, and canned tuna. The tangy dressing makes it the perfect summer dinner or side dish.

Rotini pasta salad in large bowl.

Pasta salad just says summer to me.

My mom would make this pasta salad growing up, but she always served it in a hollowed-out tomato which made it unappealing to me.

I had the recipe tucked away and didn’t start making it for my family until a few years ago when I decided to nix the hollowed-out tomato and sub the tuna for canned chicken (you’ll come to find I’m not a huge fan of fish!).

I liked the taste so much more and now it’s become a summer staple for our family because it’s so easy to make and comes together quickly.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Rotini pasta salad ingredients on white table.

COOK 16 ounces rotini noodles according to package directions. DRAIN and put in a large mixing bowl.

Rotini pasta in a mixing bowl.

ADD 2 cans tuna, drained, 2 cups sliced cucumbers, 1 large tomato, chopped to the pasta.

Rotini pasta salad recipe in a mixing bowl.

For the dressing, WHISK together 1 cup bottled Italian salad dressing (I like the Kraft Zesty Ranch), ¼ cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon Pepper.

Pasta salad dressing in glass measuring cup.

ADD the dressing to the salad and toss to coat. COVER AND CHILL until ready to serve.

FAQ’s

Pasta salad with rotini on white plates.
How do you cook rotini pasta?

For generic rotini, simply cook the boxed pasta according to the directions on the package.

If you want extra flavor, you can add salt to the water as you bring it to a boil. You’ll need about 1 tablespoon per pound of pasta.

You can also add a dash of olive oil which helps keep the pasta from sticking together.

Should you rinse pasta for cold pasta salad?

That depends.

If you need to serve the pasta right away, you can run the noodles under cold water as you drain. This will quickly stop the cooking, drop the temperature and have your salad ready to serve immediately.

This will not change the texture of the pasta in any meaningful way, but it may make it harder for the dressing to adhere to the salad and it might be slightly more watery.

On the other hand, if you mix the pasta together while it’s still warm, the dressing will cling to the pasta much better. The starch produced while cooking is great at absorbing and holding onto your sauce!

Is it better to make pasta salad the day before?

Pasta salad gets better over time as the ingredients have more time to intensify and meld together.

However, you should only make this dish a day in advance at most.

Once cooked, pasta salad only lasts 3-5 days in the refrigerator.

What goes with a pasta salad?

I love serving pasta salad with fresh fruit and rolls. You could also pair it with a light soup.

These cheesy drop biscuits make a great side for this dish!

Recipes Tips and Substitutions

Rotini pasta salad with Italian dressing in large bowl.

Like I mentioned earlier I always sub the tuna for canned chunk chicken. I use the 12 ounce cans from Costco.

I’ve made this recipe more kid-friendly over the years. If you would like to make the original recipe, you’ll need to add 1/4 cup chopped green pepper, 1/4 cup sliced green onions to the salad and 1 tablespoon mustard and 1 teaspoon dill weed to the dressing.

I often use olive oil or low-fat mayo instead of the full-fat version and it tastes just as good.

I add the cup of Italian dressing and the rest of the dressing ingredients to a glass measuring cup and just mix the dressing right in the cup so it’s easier to pour on the salad.

This rotini pasta salad is best served chilled, but if you don’t have time to let the salad chill before serving, you can make the pasta ahead of time, put it in the fridge to chill, and then add the rest of the ingredients right before you’re ready to eat.

The pasta salad makes amazing leftovers! I love to eat it for lunch the next day after the flavors have had a chance to develop overnight in the fridge.

More Like This

Rotini pasta salad on white plates.

If you’re looking for more summer side dish ideas, you’ll love these!

I hope your family loves this recipe! If you make it, be sure to take a picture and tag me on Instagram with @ashcroftfamilytable and use the hashtag #ashcroftfamilytable!

 

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Rotini pasta salad with Italian dressing in large bowl.

Tasty Tuna Rotini Pasta Salad

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

Tuna Rotini Pasta Salad combines rotini pasta, fresh cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, and canned tuna. The tangy dressing makes it the perfect summer dinner or side dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) package rotini noodles
  • 2 (5 ounce) cans tuna, drained (or 12 ounce can chunk chicken)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup Italian salad dressing
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Instructions

    1. Prepare rotini according to package directions. Drain and place in large mixing bowl.
    2. Add tuna and vegetables to the pasta. 
    3. In a small bowl, whisk together salad dressing, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.
    4. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad mixture and toss to coat.
    5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

Notes

If you don't want to prepare the pasta salad all at once, you can make the pasta ahead of time, put it in the fridge to chill, and then add the rest of the ingredients right before you're ready to serve.

Original recipes calls for these additions:

¼ cup chopped green pepper
¼ cup sliced green onions
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon dill weed

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 245Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 647mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 10g
Pinterest graphic with text, a bowl of tuna rotini pasta salad, and pasta salad ingredients in a bowl.

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