Rainbow Tuna Pasta Salad

Tuna, pasta and assorted vegetables go well together, and the rainbow-colored pasta adds a nice visual touch to this meal. (Photo by Jerry Dilsaver)
It takes very little cooking to get the tuna just right, so be careful not to overcook it. (Photo by Jerry Dilsaver)

Light recipe is a refreshing summer meal

August days are hot. So a nice cool meal like this is a great way to end them. Tuna is a favorite fish in the Carolinas, and just about everyone enjoys pasta. The two together are enough to excite the taste buds of most folks. This mixture includes tomatoes, corn, peas, carrots, onions, cucumbers and more. It all blends well and I believe it exceeds expectations.

This month, sportsmen’s minds begin to wander from their next fishing pursuit to their first hunt of the year. Hunters will have plenty to do to get ready for the coming seasons and this meal will fill them up lightly and not bog them down. There should be plenty of energy left to straighten decoys, shoot some arrows or skeet to sharpen the eyes or whatever else needs to be done in the cool of the early evening.

Maybe one of your late summer fishing adventures could be catching the tuna to make this dish. Blackfins, yellowfins and even a few bigeyes are working the Gulf Stream eddies and temperature breaks. If that doesn’t fit your schedule, your favorite fishmonger should have a few loins and be ready to slice a steak or some tasty medallions for you.

Rainbow tuna pasta salad


  • 2 pound tuna fillets or medallions
  • 1 Pkg (12 oz.) Mueller’s Tri-color rotini
  • 1 Cup diced tomotoes
  • 1 Cup chopped cucumber
  • 1 Can (small) green chilies
  • 1/2 Cup diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 Cup chopped banana peppers
  • 1/2 Cup frozen yellow corn kernels
  • 1/2 Cup frozen green peas 
  • 1/3 Cup sliced carrots
  • 3 TBL olive oil
  • Coarse ground black pepper
  • Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning
  • Zesty Italian Dressing

Options: Chopped jalapeno peppers, sliced olives.


1. Put the tuna in a zip lock bag, add enough Zesty Italian dressing to cover it, squeeze all the air out, seal it and let it marinate in the refrigerator while preparing the rest of the meal.

2. If using frozen corn and peas, remove them from the freezer and allow them to thaw.

3. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

4. Cool the pasta in the refrigerator.

5. Dice the banana peppers, onion, cucumber, tomatoes and jalapeno peppers (optional).

6. Slice the olives (optional).

7. Drain the green chilies – and tomatoes if you use canned tomatoes.

8. Mix the vegetables, except the olives and jalapenos, and 2 TBL of olive oil into the pasta, seasoning to taste with pepper and Cavender’s.

9. Remove the tuna from the bag and season lightly with pepper and Cavender’s.

10. Add a TBL of olive oil to a heavy (cast iron) frying pan and preheat to medium to medium-high.

11. Sear the tuna to where the white is rising about 1/8 to 1/4 inch up the side, turn over and repeat.

12. Remove the tuna to a cutting board and cut into approximately 1/2-inch pieces.

13. Add the drippings from the frying pan into the pasta bowl.

14. Mix the tuna and drippings into the pasta and vegetables.

15. Return the salad to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

16. Serve chilled.

This is a complete light meal that is ideally suited for a hot August evening. I like salads and often add a green salad or lettuce wedge. Some of my friends also like to have a bowl of multi-grain rolls on the table. Those who like to end their meals with something sweet can consider adding a slice of angel food cake topped with sliced fruit.

Those with outside kitchens can prepare and serve this meal on a covered patio or deck as the day cools. If you don’t have an outside kitchen, it’s still nice to eat outside after preparing it inside.

Peppers and olives are best served in separate bowls since they can change the recipe’s taste quite a bit. (Photo by Jerry Dilsaver)

I like tuna! Maybe not quite enough to slice a piece off on the way to the fish box, but once it’s been bled and chilled, I’m game. This is another tasty way to use tuna and I think you’ll enjoy it too. For those that are squeamish, this recipe involves cooking the tuna – a little. 

I also like pasta and decided cooked and chilled pasta would go well with tuna. The next decision was which pasta. And after several trials, I decided I preferred the multicolor rotini from Mueller. You may prefer another pasta, but I think this one, with spinach in the green spirals and carrots in the red spirals, adds more to the dish than regular or whole wheat pasta. The extra colors add to its appeal also and helped with the name. A tip on cooking the pasta is to add a splash of olive to help prevent it sticking together. This recipe only calls for three tablespoons of olive oil. One is to coat the bottom of the pan for searing the tuna and the other two are mixed into the salad. I also mix in any drippings left in the pan. This has the flavor of the cooking tuna, a touch of olive oil and the Zesty Italian dressing. This mixture isn’t meant to be wet and this is plenty of liquid. 

I realize this is an unusual way to prepare tuna and pasta, but we like it at our house. This makes more than you will need for a meal. But the leftovers will get eaten pretty quickly. It’s a nice, easy preparation that I find light and tasty and I believe you’ll like it too. Enjoy!

About Jerry Dilsaver 1169 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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