Easy Italian Tuna Pasta Salad

This Italian tuna pasta salad recipe is so simple, you will not only love eating it, you will love making it!  I love this recipe because it’s a nice twist to the typical American Tuna salad or tuna casserole.

With the pretty bow ties, this salad is great for picnics too and can be made a day in advance.

Italian tuna pasta salad

Italian Tuna Pasta Salad

As with most Italian pasta salads, such as my tortellini salad this one can be used as a main meal or for lunch. This recipe makes quite a bit, serving about 6-8 for a main dish.

When I first made this recipe, my husband was not too thrilled with the idea of tuna. But he loved it and I’m sure you will too!

I think the combination of the tuna and cannellini beans really set this dish apart from many other pasta salads.


italian pasta salad tuna ingredients

This recipe is very flexible with endless options. But here are the main ingredients for my version of Italian tuna pasta. It’s simple, easy and also healthy!

  • Short pasta such as rotini or farfalle also known as bow ties.
  • Cannellini beans – make sure to rinse and drain
  • Tuna such as albacore. Tuna is full of omega-3 and even B12 which help us stay healthy.
  • Red onion – this adds more flavor than regular yellow onions
  • Parsley – Italian or curly will work
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Celery (optional)
  • Tomatoes (optional)


Here’s the live I did on YouTube for the salad. The only difference is that I didn’t have the red onion so I improvised with yellow/white. Enjoy!

How to Make Italian Pasta Salad with Tuna

Italian tuna pasta salad

Italian Tuna Pasta Salad

Here's an easy Italian tuna pasta salad recipe and I'm so happy to share it with you! It's great for side dishes, lunch or parties. Simple, easy and lots of flavor! Enjoy!
5 from 1 vote
Print Rate
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Dish, Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6 people


  • 3/4 lb short pasta such as bow ties or penne about 4 cups
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 7oz can of tuna
  • 1 14 oz can cannellini beans drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 small red onion sliced thinly, cut into 1" lengths
  • 2 stalks celery chopped fine optional
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice of 1 lemon (about 4 TBLE)
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • dash salt and pepper


  • In a large pan, bring water to a boil.
  • Cook the pasta for an al dente texture. Drain, cool with cold water, and place in large serving bowl.
  • Add in the tuna, beans, onion, celery (optional), parsley, olive oil and lemon juice and mix well.
  • Set aside for 1 hour covered in the fridge before you serve, or serve at room temperature immediately.


  • This recipe makes a large amount of pasta. It can serve 6-8 main dish meals. To reduce the quantity, simply cut the pasta in half, keep the whole can of tuna and beans, and use slightly less olive oil and onion. 
  • This tuna pasta salad can be served cold or warm.  I tend to eat mine either way.
  • I would recommend a good tuna like albacore where the meat will be more in chunks and not mushy.
  • The celery is optional, I’ve had it with and without. 
  • You can also add in other ingredients such as olives and tomatoes. 
  • Serve with Italian or other artisan bread, a garden salad, or tomato salad.

Step by Step with Images

cook bow tie pasta

Start by cooking the pasta in large pot of boiling water. When it’s done, drain and run the pasta under cold water to cool.

rinse and drain cannellini beans

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the cannellini beans and add to a separate large serving bowl.

Dice two stalks of celery very fine and add to the bowl.

chopped parsley for tuna salad

Chop the parsley fine and add to the bowl.

finely sliced red onion for the Italian tuna salad

Slice the red onion into thin strips and then cut to 1″ lengths.

add other ingredients to the pasta salad with tuna

Drain the juice from the can of tuna, then add the tuna to the bowl along with the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.

mix tuna pasta salad ingredients

Add the cooked pasta and stir until very well mixed and coated with all the ingredients.

Your dish is basically ready by the time the pasta is done cooking. It really is that easy!

What Makes this Tuna Pasta Salad Italian?

Many tuna pasta salads use dressings that include mayo or other creamy ingredients. My version is a pasta salad with tuna but no mayo. Instead, we use extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

I use lemon juice to add some brightness and acidity. The use of red wine vinegar or other vinegar is not necessary with this recipe.

What Goes with Italian Tuna Pasta Salad

Here are some ideas for what to serve with your tuna pasta salad.

cherry tomato caprese salad

This cherry tomato caprese salad is light and refreshing. The use of the tomato is a great accompaniment to the tuna.

italian summery salad

A classic traditional Italian green salad also compliments this dish well.

Similar Pasta Salad Recipes

If you like recipes like this Italian tuna pasta salad, then I recommend checking these out too.

sausage pasta salad

Here’s an easy sausage pasta salad recipe. I use chicken sausage but you can use any type you want.

pasta salad angel hair

Prefer to have your pasta salad without tuna or meat? Try this angel hair pasta salad – it’s delicious!

ravioli pasta salad

Have you ever tried a ravioli pasta salad? If not, you’ve got to try it! It’s so easy and utterly refreshing!

Questions You May Have

How long does Italian tuna pasta salad last in the fridge?

This salad can last up to 5 days in the fridge and can be served cold or at room temperature.

Can you make Italian tuna pasta salad without mayonnaise?

Yes, this recipe for tuna pasta salad uses extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

Is Italian tuna pasta salad healthy?

Yes, this recipe is healthy and loaded with a balance of carbs and protein. Give it a try!

Italian Tuna Pasta Salad Variations

There are many options to make this salad your own. I like mine simple so the flavors of the tuna don’t get lost. But you can certainly add or adjust according to your tastes. Here are some ideas.

  • Olives such as kalamata, black, or green.
  • Chopped fresh tomatoes.
  • Chopped cucumbers.
  • Roasted red pepper.
  • Celery.
  • Cooked green beans or even asparagus.
  • Basil pesto or fresh basil.
  • Swap the tuna for chicken or use seared tuna if you prefer fresh.
  • Use different types of pasta instead of bow ties/farfalle.

Watch my video (in the recipe card below) to see how simple the recipe is and why I chose to feature it here.

I hope you enjoy my recipe for Italian pasta salad with tuna. Let me know how you like it in the comments below and definitely let me know any changes you made to make it your own. I love hearing your feedback!

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Easy Italian Tuna Pasta Salad

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