The ‘perfect’ tuna salad for spring – a COVID-19 non-perishable recipe

The final product is a lovely salad that's filling, yet light tasting at the same time. Note, the cucumber is optional. Photo credit: Jackie Graves

For those of us forced to stay home during quarantine, coming up with new, creative dinner ideas can be a chore. If any of our readers are like me, this may lead you to the internet to find some ideas. Or you can get ‘experimental’ on your own.

Finding and creating recipes is a secondary passion of mine, next to journalism, of course.

I wanted to create a recipe that combined a childhood favourite of mine – a pasta salad with tuna and vegetables – and make it not only almost exclusively non-perishable, but a tasty salad with a light, sweet taste for spring.

Plus, it contains a lot of filling, healthy ingredients that will go a long way.

Here’s what you’ll need:

– 1 package of dry pasta of your choice, I chose fusili

– 2 cans of chunk light tuna in water

– 1 can of white kidney beans

– 3/4 cup of Hellman’s 1/2 the fat mayonnaise

– 2 handfuls (or approximately 1 cup) of dried cranberries

– 4 ribs of celery, sliced

– 1/4 cup of shelled sunflower seeds

– 2 tsp. of lemon juice

– 1 tbsp. of liquid honey

– 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

– 1 tsp. of salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried basil flakes (or to taste)

Let’s get started:

The majority of the ingredients you need are non-perishable or last a long time! The only fresh item required is celery.
The majority of the ingredients you need are non-perishable or last a long time! The only fresh item required is celery. Photo credit: Jackie Graves

First things first, you’ll need to cook your pasta “al dente,” which is an Italian term meaning rice or pasta that’s slightly firm when you bite it. Cook according to the package – for most brands, 8 minutes makes a perfect al dente pasta.

Note: Be sure to salt your pasta water. If you don’t, Italian nonnas will know the difference.

Then, you’ll need to make sure it’s fully cooled before adding your other ingredients, as the salad is meant to be served cold. You can do this by draining the pasta and letting it cool in the fridge for about 45 minutes to an hour.

However, you “can” simply rinse the pasta with cold water. The only reason I advise against this is because it washes away the valuable starch that makes dressing cling to the noodles.

Boil your pasta until al dente - approximately eight minutes.
Boil your pasta until al dente - approximately eight minutes. Photo credit: Jackie Graves

Next, we have the dressing. Put your mayonnaise, lemon juice, spices, honey and oil into a bowl. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Mix together your mayo, oil, honey and spices together.
Mix together your mayo, oil, honey and spices together to make a creamy, lightly sweet and savoury dressing. Photo credit: Jackie Graves

Follow by rinsing and scrubbing your four celery sticks thoroughly in cold water – either with an unused scrubby pad or proper vegetable scrubber. You can then cut off the white part of the stalk and any remaining leaves off the top before slicing to your desired thickness.

Then, put your white kidney beans into a strainer and rise very thoroughly – you don’t want any residue left behind. That goopy liquid in the can is very starchy and salty, so it could ruin the flavour and texture of your whole dish.

Finally, drain your two cans of tuna of most of their liquid and set aside.

Take your now chilled pasta from the fridge and combine your ingredients. In hindsight, I would have added the dressing first followed by the tuna, garnishes, beans and celery to make stirring and distributing the ingredients a little easier.

Mixing everything together makes it a little more difficult - do as I say, not as I do. Mix your dressing, followed by tuna and beans and then toppings such as cranberries and sunflower seeds. It distributes everything much easier.
Mixing everything together makes it a little more difficult - do as I say, not as I do. Mix your dressing, followed by tuna and beans and then toppings such as cranberries and sunflower seeds. It distributes everything easier.

But, if you’re a rebel like me, just add it all at once and hope for the best.

There you have it.

A light, tasty and perfect springtime tuna salad that utilizes ingredients many of us have stocked in our pantries during quarantine.

Not only is the recipe delicious, but it’s very cheap to make and incorporates some healthy foods (such as legumes). The salad is so creamy that not even the most picky eaters are unlikely to notice their presence.

The final product is a lovely salad that's filling, yet light tasting at the same time. Note: the cucumber is optional.
The final product is a lovely salad that's filling, yet light tasting at the same time. Note, the cucumber is optional. Photo credit: Jackie Graves

Of course, for my friends who are gluten free or don’t eat meat, you can substitute the pasta for any gluten-free variety and replace tuna more white kidney beans, mashed – they emulate the texture just as well.

This salad keeps very well in the fridge and can even be frozen for a rainy day.

Feel free to share your thoughts and favourite recipes on our Twitter @DCUOITChronicle.

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