This is one of those nostalgic recipes for a simple food that I remember eating many times while growing up. My mom’s tuna salad is still the best I can remember eating. Sometimes people fancy up their tuna salad by adding cheese, hard-boiled eggs, or other spices or herbs, but I still like it best just the way Mom made it. Now I can’t say for sure that this is going to turn out EXACTLY the way Mom made it because it’s another one of those recipes that no one really wrote down–“a little of this and a little of that, until it tastes ‘right.'” I’m going to do my best to tell you how to do it.
You can make this salad any time of the year, but to me it is a perfect summer food. It’s great picnic potluck food. And once again, you don’t have to heat up the oven–just a pot of water on the stove to boil some pasta. One of the main ingredients in this salad is peas–you can use frozen or canned if you have to, but I have been excitedly awaiting the opportunity to use fresh peas from my own garden for this. Yum. All that pea shucking was worth it to me; it made this classic recipe even better.
Mom’s Classic Tuna Pasta Salad
Ingredients: You can adjust your ingredients to make more or less for your needs. For the purpose of this recipe, I am going to tell you the amounts I used for a somewhat large batch–a big bowlful for a potluck.
- 16 ounces of uncooked pasta (I favor small shells, but you could use elbow macaroni, medium shells, rotini, etc.)
- 2 cans tuna in water
- diced onion (I don’t like too strong of a raw onion taste, so I used only about 2-3 tablespoons of yellow onion.)
- diced bell pepper (I usually use a few tablespoons to 1/4 cup of green, but other colors would work just fine if you prefer them or want to add more color to your salad.)
- peas (I used about 1 cup fresh, but I use frozen, without thawing or cooking, when I don’t have fresh. I think my mom always uses a can of drained peas. Fresh peas will be crunchy which I liked, but you will need to cook them briefly if you don’t want them crunchy. I forgot to put these in the picture.)
- 1 1/2 cups or more Miracle Whip or mayonnaise (I ALWAYS use light Miracle Whip; I don’t think mayo would give it much flavor, but I know some people hate Miracle Whip. The amount may vary. You want your salad to be creamy and moist but not dripping with salad dressing.)
- milk (Instead of continuing to add additional Miracle Whip, I will add milk to loosen it up and give it the texture I want. Leftovers can also be loosened up or re-moistened with the addition of some milk.)
- about 1 tablespoon white sugar (I think this may be one of my mom’s secret ingredients. A spoonful of sugar makes most things taste better.)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil pasta according to package directions and then drain and rinse with cold water.
- While the pasta is cooking (or draining and cooling), open and partially drain your tuna and prepare your onion, pepper, and peas.
- Put the tuna and vegetables into a big enough bowl to hold your pasta. Add Miracle Whip, sugar, and salt and pepper. Stir until well-combined.
- Add the drained and rinsed pasta to the tuna mix and stir until thoroughly combined. If the salad seems dry, add a little more salad dressing or milk a tablespoon at a time and mix again. Repeat as needed. If the salad seems too wet, don’t worry too much. It will dry out over time and probably be just fine when it is time to eat it.)
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving. Before serving, give it a stir. If it seems dry, add a little milk to it and stir until it loosens up again.
- Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to add milk if it becomes dry.
Source: My mom