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Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad

By Marley Goldin
on April 18, 2021
last updated on June 28, 2021
4 from 4 votes

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This Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad is fresh, hearty, and satisfying. And with it being so affordable, easy, and abundant, it will be your new go-to family meal!
Overhead Shot of Two Plates of Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad

Looking for a new twist on the classic pasta salad? Try out this Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad!

It’s bursting with fresh flavor, absolutely affordable, and can feed up to 6 hungry people! It’s absolutely one of my favorite pasta salads, and to me, just tastes like home.

Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad Tips and Tricks

Wait for Your Pasta to Cool

Both the tuna and the pesto taste best raw, so mixing it into hot pasta is not ideal. It’s best to cook your pasta according to the instructions on the package first, strain it, and then set it aside to cool.

You can even opt to make your pasta and your pesto the night before, if you want to do a little meal prep.

Portrait of two plates of pasta salad cropped and focused on fresh basil

Whip Your Pesto Up Next

Pesto is super easy to make in a food processor or blender. Just throw all of your ingredients in, blend, and voila! Easy peasy!

Classic pesto is absolutely one of my favorite ways to infuse flavor as it’s just so vibrant and fresh. This recipe teaches you how to make your own for this dish, but you could also opt to buy pesto to add in place of the basil, arugula, and garlic.

The only big difference between a pesto you may buy already made and the one in this pasta salad is that I’ve left out both nuts and parmesan, as the tuna and mayonnaise bring enough extra fat and salt to not need it.

cooked pasta and tuna and pesto

Break up Your Tuna with a Fork

We want the tuna to stretch throughout the pasta, so crush it up with your fork, add your mayo, and stir! Then, add your pesto directly to your tuna and mix it up. This will act as the “sauce” for your tuna pesto pasta salad.

You’ll add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice last just to give your pasta salad some freshness.

A Bowl of tuna mixed with pesto

Tuna Pasta Frequently Asked Questions

How long does tuna pasta salad last?

Tuna pasta salad will stay delicious for 3-4 days after preparation as long as it is covered and stored in the refrigerator.

What if my tuna pasta salad leftovers are dry?

After sitting for some time, your tuna pasta salad may get a little dry. Add about a teaspoon of mayonnaise to your serving to add some moisture back in.

At what temperature should I enjoy tuna pesto pasta salad?

Tuna pesto pasta salad is best served cold or at room temperature. Heating it will make it lose a lot of flavor from the tuna, raw garlic, and herbs.

Green tip: The most sustainable way to eat canned tuna is by making sure it is skipjack or yellowfin tuna. Most tuna labeled as “light” is skipjack or yellowfin, as opposed to “white” tuna which is usually albacore. Opt for “light” to reduce your environmental impact.

Why You Should Make this Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad

  • It’s packed with flavor. Between the tuna and pesto, your tastebuds will be so satisfied.
  • It’s fresh. The herbs and lemon juice give this dish a fresh finish.
  • It’s easy and it feeds a lot. Whip it up in no time and feed 4-6 people!

If you love this fresh Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad and are looking for more pasta salad options, check out this Sherry Bowtie Pasta and this Confetti Orzo Salad.

Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad

4 from 4 votes
Recipe by Marley Goldin Course: Lunch, DinnerCuisine: American


Prep time


Cooking time


Cooling Time


Total time



This Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad is fresh, hearty, and satisfying. And with it being so affordable, easy, and abundant, it will be your new go-to family meal!


  • 16 ounces rotini

  • 15 ounces (3 cans) albacore tuna in water

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves and stems, tightly packed

  • 2 cups fresh arugula, tightly packed

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)


  • Cook the pasta until al dente according to directions on the box. Drain water and allow pasta to cool completely, tossing a couple of times between to make sure the noodles don’t stick to each other too much.
  • Drain water from cans and transfer tuna to a medium mixing bowl. Use a fork to break tuna into smaller pieces. Add mayonnaise and stir well.
  • Add basil, arugula, garlic, olive oil black pepper, and salt to a food processor and blend until smooth to make your pesto.
  • Add pesto to tuna and stir well. Then, add tuna and pesto mixture to your cooled pasta. Stir until pasta is coated.
  • Squeeze fresh lemons juice on top for some extra freshness. Enjoy chilled or at room temperature.

Recipe Video

Pro Tips

  • Make your pasta first so it has time to cool before adding your pesto and tuna mixture.
  • Toss the pasta a couple of times while it’s cooling so the noodles don’t stick to one another.

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