A quick and easy, high-protein pasta salad recipe with tomatoes, parsley, feta, and tuna, tossed in olive tapenade and a bit of lemon.
My most recently discovered kitchen ingredient life hack? One that many of you probably already knew but I'm usually late to the game on these things? Olive tapenade makes a killer pasta sauce.
Er, wait. Sauce? Dressing? Who even knows. What I'm trying to get at here, is that olive tapenade is not only a genius spread or dip, but also a delicious thing in which you can toss your pasta with only one step: emptying a jar. Yyyep. It's just like buying marinara... except it's a salty little number with olives, capers, garlic, and olive oil, ready to make your Mediterranean food dreams come true. Sold.
And, if I may suggest a certain olive tapenade and tuna pasta salad, allow me to give you a few details. This pasta salad is:
- Meal prep city. Take it on picnics or to barbecues, or pack it up for a work lunch. Pasta salads are one of the best hearty meal prep options out there!
- Oven-free. Here's to not turning on our ovens when it's 90 degrees out, am I right?! I mean, will I do it? Will I suffer for good food? Yes. But if I don't have to melt in my apartment... that would be ideal. The only cooking that's happening here is boiling some pasta. After that? Just some chopping, combining, and chilling in the fridge.
- Protein-packed. I don't know about you, but I'm always looking for high protein pasta salad recipes. And you guys, that tuna does some WORK. The combination of tuna, pasta, and feta make this a really high-protein pasta salad recipe.
- Balanced. In addition to its high protein content, this pasta salad is also packed with healthy fats from olive oil and complex carbs from the pasta (assuming you use pasta made without refined flour). All those macronutrients, CHECK.
- Salty (in a the best way). I confess to having a salt tooth -- one of many reasons I adore Mediterranean food. Here's to retaining more water than we'd like but enjoying us some salty food.
- Simple. In just six ingredients, you have an incredibly flavorful and healthy pasta salad. Plus a little pepper, squeeze of lemon, and maybe an extra drizzle of olive oil if you're feeling spunky (always).
So, without further ado, let's get another pasta salad recipe in the books.
How to Make Olive Tapenade and Tuna Pasta Salad
Here's what you'll need:
- LA PASTA. I've been *mildly* obsessed with chickpea pasta lately (especially the kinds by Banza and Barilla) because it helps me sneak an extra dose of protein in my day. But, feel free to pick your favorite kind or use what you have on hand. As for shapes, you're going to want something short like bowtie, rotini, cavatappi, or casarecce (what I used!). Pretty much anything that isn't a long strand of pasta is ideal pasta salad material.
- Tuna. I'm not too particular about brands here, but the best kinds only have three ingredients: solid white albacore tuna, water, and salt (likely sea salt). If it's sustainably sourced (like the kind from Wild Planet), even better!
- Olive tapenade. You'll find this in most grocery stores right by the pasta sauce section (where they keep pesto, bruschetta, the likes). You can also make your own if you're feeling motivated! I totally went the store-bought route, since it was 100% an impulse buy... which coincidentally turned into my new favorite thing.
- Feta. So salty, so good. Please be in all of my salads.
- Tomatoes. It's summer, so find some good ones if you can -- they're only going to get better throughout the season! Heirloom, cocktail, Roma, grape, cherry, on the vine -- whatever works/is available to you. If you use a larger tomato like Romas or heirloom, scrape some of the seeds out and let the juices run off before adding to the pasta.
- Parsley. Oh, humble parsley. Often overshadowed by basil in summer... but really deserves some attention. Parsley gives this pasta salad a fresh, bright taste. I adore it.
Finally, as mentioned, a bit of extra olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and some freshly cracked pepper -- though completely optional -- make this a home run. Sooo maybe not optional 😉
The Pasta Salad
Start off by cooking your pasta according to the package instructions, meanwhile prepping the other ingredients in down times (such as waiting for the pasta water to boil).
All you'll need to do for the other ingredients is: drain the tuna, dice the tomatoes into large chunks (or halve grape/cherry tomatoes), and chop some parsley (I use love using kitchen shears for this). The rest is just a matter of retrieving items from your fridge or pantry (feta, tapenade, and/or lemons and pepper). If desired, you can whisk the olive tapenade in with a little more olive oil to create a thinner consistency.
Once your pasta is cooked and drained, combine everything together in a big bowl, toss with tapenade and either serve immediately, or place in the fridge, covered, until you're ready to eat it (if that's you, I admire your patience).
Guys, let me just say, this salad saved me this week for a few days of work lunches! Or maybe I saved myself because I actually meal prepped for once 😉 Seriously though, having a high-protein, nutrient dense meal in the middle of the work day helps keep my energy up throughout the afternoon.
Then on the non-work, summery, fun side of the equation, you've got your picnic lunches covered, as well as a side dish for grilling out, or bringing a tasty pasta salad to pass at a friend's barbecue.
Which reminds me... some other summery pasta salads you might like are: fruity caprese pasta salad (this is one I have repeat throughout summer!), pesto pasta salad with chicken, or late summer veggie pasta salad.
For now, though, this olive tapenade and tuna pasta salad has your name all over it.Print
Olive Tapenade and Tuna Pasta Salad
A quick and easy, high-protein pasta salad recipe with tuna, tomatoes, feta, and parsley tossed in olive tapenade as a sauce. Perfect for picnics, barbecues, work lunches, or any time!
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 10
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 5 cups 1x
- Category: Pasta salads
- Method: Combine
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
- 8 oz. dry small pasta (I used Barilla chickpea casarecce)
- ¾ cup olive tapenade
- 2 5 oz. cans solid white albacore tuna, in water or olive oil
- 1 lb. tomatoes (your favorite kind), diced large
- ½ cup feta crumbles
- 1 cup parsley, chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (more if desired)
- a few turns of freshly cracked pepper
- Make pasta. Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain, and rinse to cool down the pasta.
- Combine pasta salad ingredients. In a large bowl, toss pasta with olive tapenade. Then add tuna, tomatoes, feta, and parsley. Gently stir to combine.
- Lemon & olive oil. Finish the pasta by adding the lemon juice and olive oil. Top with freshly cracked pepper, and serve immediately or chill until ready.
*If you want the olive tapenade to have a thinner consistency with a more olive oily coating, whisk a couple tablespoons of olive oil in with the ⅓ cup tapenade before adding it to the pasta.
Keywords: olive tapenade and tuna pasta salad, high protein pasta salads, how to use olive tapenade
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