Pasta Salad with Tuna, Pine Nuts, and Red Peppers

There’s ten feet of snow piled up in my front yard, which means I’m dreaming of hot weather and summer picnics.  I made my favorite pasta salad and savored the tangy dressing and the crunch of toasted pine nuts. Tuna, black olives, roasted red peppers and tomatoes made it seem like a mouthful of summer. It was a sweet moment until I looked out the dining room window and saw the snow drifts around the alder and spruce trees. Still, if you look closely enough, a few buds are forming on the branches, so there’s hope.

Whether you need a reminder of warm weather pleasures or you’re looking for something different to take for lunch, this pasta salad is perfect. The recipe makes enough for a potluck or picnic, but you can cut it in half for a family meal. I like to make the larger amount and keep the left-overs in the fridge for lunch during the week. Make sure you don’t over cook  the rice pasta, which can get gummy quickly.

Did you know that bell peppers are one of only two members of the Capsicum genus that don’t produce capsaicin?  Capsaicin is the chemical that makes your mouth burn when you eat a chili pepper. No matter, roasted or raw, bell peppers are delicious.

Pasta Salad with Tuna, Pine Nuts, and Red Peppers

Serves 10-12, adapted from “Cook Now, Serve Later”

2/3 cup (160 ml) garlic infused olive oil
1 cup (240 ml) pine nuts
2 large tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
2 cans (6 1/2 ounces) water-packed tuna, drained and flaked
1 jar (10 – 12 ounces) roasted red peppers or pimento, chopped
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) pitted black olives, sliced or chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) black pepper
1 pound (450 grams) rice pasta, fusilli or other shape
1/4 cup (60 ml) parsley, chopped

Boil a large pan of water and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Cook the pasta for a few minutes less than directed so that it keeps its shape in the finished salad. Drain in a colander and rinse under running water, then shake off the excess moisture.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and stir till they turn golden brown. Turn off the heat and stir in the tomatoes, then transfer the mixture to a large serving bowl. Add the tuna, red peppers, olives, vinegar, salt, pepper and cooked pasta. Stir until well mixed. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve at room temperature.