Saturday, August 31

Walnut Pesto Tuna Pasta Salad: Perfect Labor Day Salad

Labor is coming... just a couple more days. This particular holiday doesn't hold the same splash of impact as when I was a kid. It makes me miss being hauled to family functions, sometimes camping or swimming outside, or going to my grandma's house, playing games with cousins, aunts, and uncles, and OF COURSE eating way too much really good food. It was heightened particularly because it was the last big fun thing before the the start of school the following week.

As an adult, married, with a kid, the holiday's meaning has adapted to mean a quiet relaxed gathering with friends or without friends, watching sports, eating grilled comfort foods, going for a nice walk, and just enjoying the day off. I must say the going for the walk part was a lot easier in California Haha. Here in Southern Arizona its pretty warm for long walks, although the weather is slowly cooling. Finally. Happily cooling down.

Speaking of good food.....

I have to tell you about this walnut parmesan pesto tuna pasta salad! Its absolutely yummy and perfect for labor picnics, family gatherings, and bbq's. It has no mayo and can be made in about 9-17 minutes depending on your altitude (how long it takes to boil water at your house). The hardest part is waiting for the water to boil. You boil pasta, drain pasta, soak pasta in cold water to stop the cooking, chop veggies, open a can of tuna, drop stuff into a bowl, and combine. Ta Dahh you are done. You can even do the pesto the day before and save yourself like 3 minutes. My four year old even commented wow dinner was fast tonight mom. Yup fast enough I felt like I could heat up some bread in the oven to make the salad into a full meal :)

Note: As most foods if you can keep it in the cooler, in the shade until its time to eat you can add an hr or two to the food's shelf life. Although, its not really a good idea to gamble with your families stomachs, unless you have that devious streak running through your head about someone always pinching your cheeks and calling you little so and so, just remember nothing can hang out in the heat for hours and hours and still taste good. Error on staying safe. Anything served outside and let sit outside should be tossed at the end of the day. With this pasta salad with yummy cheesy, nutty pesto dressing I am not sure you will have that problem.

Pesto Tuna Pasta Salad (Mayo Free) 
Makes 3-4 meal size portions or 6-8 side portions 

Step 1: Make pesto

In a food processor blend together 1/2 cup of chopped or whole walnuts or pieces (whatever is cheaper), 1oz of good parmesan cheese grated already or in slices, 1 handful of basil (1/8 cup- 1/4cup), 1 cup of fresh parsley (half of a bunch rinsed well and roughly chopped), 1/2 tsp lemon juice, and a large drizzle of olive oil 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup. Blend it together for maybe a minute until its smooth to your liking. Taste it, add salt and pepper to your liking. Most of the time I only need 1/4 tsp salt & 1/4-1/8 tsp pepper because of the nuts and cheese. Set aside or refrigerate it for when you need it. Can be made in advance.

Step 2:  Pasta

Boil your pasta as per directions on the box. I boiled 4 oz which is someplace inbetween 1/4 and 1/2 of a regular sized box. I always go 1 minute under the directions on the box for al dente just incase it takes me a minute to get to the stove. You never know with a 4 yr old around ;)  As soon as the timer goes pour the pasta into a strainer and run COLD water over it to stop cooking. Another method is to have a strainer resting in a large bowl of cold water and ice. Whatever method you do - just do it so your pasta doesn't get mushy. You want it to absorb all those yummy pesto flavors and it won't if it keeps cooking and gets overcooked. I used whole grain rotini because I like the spiral shape and the whole grain for the kiddo. It also helps with the whole eating fiber thing that we are all supposed to be doing.

Step 3: Vegetables & Tuna

In a large bowl combine 1 stalk of celery, 12 grape tomatoes washed & halved, 1 can of tuna regular sized (6 oz) drained, 2 green onions sliced thin (if you have kitchen scissors this is really quick and easy), 1 red pepper finely chopped, and some salt and pepper to taste.

Note: the recipe didn't call for capers but capers always taste awesome with tuna.  I used all red grape tomatoes but for a stunning presentation spend an extra dollar fifty and buy two colors. It will make your salad pop with life.

Step 4: Toss & Eat or Refrigerate for later

Toss the tuna and veggies with the cooled pasta. Coat everything with that delish pesto you previous made.

List of ingredients for shopping: 

1/2 cup of chopped or whole walnuts or pieces
1oz of good parmesan cheese grated already or in slices
1 handful of basil (1/8 cup - 1/4cup)
1 cup of fresh parsley (half of a bunch rinsed well and roughly chopped)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
olive oil 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup
1/4 tsp salt & 1/4-1/8 tsp pepper  (or to taste)
1 stalk of celery
half of package or 12 grape tomatoes, washed and halved
6oz regular can of tuna, drained
1 red pepper
2 green onions or scallions, whites and green parts finely chopped
4-5 oz of whole grain pasta (depending how heavy you want the pasta to be) I went lighter with 4oz
capers (optional)

Stay safe & have a good Labor Day! If you are swimming with kiddos please be extra careful. Be in the water with them, leave your phone, and apply sunscreen all day long.... yeah the mom in me had to say that.  

From my kitchen to yours! 

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