Some people have a difficult time thinking outside the box when it comes to certain foods. One food I find people don't tend to experiment with much is tuna. When I speak to clients and recommend boosting seafood intake by way of tuna, most equate that to me suggesting they eat more creamy tuna salad and fast food fried fish sandwiches. That's a healthy message that is definitely getting lost in translation! 

For all of its brain-boosting and cardio-protective health benefits, you'd think we'd all be eating seafood more often. On average, Americans eat less than half of the USDA's recommended two to three servings (or 8 to 12 ounces) of seafood a week for health. This recommendation is especially important for kids, pregnant and breastfeeding women to follow because the DHA (an important omgea-3 fatty acid) in fish is involved in healthy brain development. A study published by the Lancet of almost 12,000 pregnant women indicated that intake of fish more than twice a week enhanced the visual acuity and verbal IQ of the baby. So, does diet matter? YES!

So why are we failing to eat more seafood during the week? I believe most of us (including yours truly) didn't grow up eating it regularly and when we did...well, it  was likely in the form of creamy tuna salad or a fried fish sandwich. It wasn't until I worked with a professional chef teaching healthy cooking classes to a group of wonderful moms in Dallas, Texas, that I tried tuna in a pasta salad. The extremely talented and award-winning Chef Pete Nolasco, introduced me to a quick and simple tuna pasta dish made with canned chunk light tuna, fideo noodles (often substituted with linguini pasta) and fresh tomatoes and herbs. “Pasta a la Pete” was the first time I had eaten tuna without mayo, celery and pickles, and it was fantastic!

After that mind-blowing cooking experience, I was curious to experiment with tuna in more pasta recipes. I love using chunk light tuna because it has a mild flavor, is available in practically every grocery store, it's budget-friendly and I can easily substitute it in place of chicken or meat in several recipes. So, in honor my good friend, Chef Pete, who introduced me to the flavorful possibilities with tuna, I present my Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad recipe. It's quick to prepare, good for your heart and brain, and bursting with flavor! 


Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad

Recipe by Christy Wilson
Servings: 4 (recipe yields 4 cups)
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole grain shell pasta
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons store bought basil pesto
  • 1 tablespoons kalamata olives, finely chopped (about 5 pitted olives)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1, 5 ounce can chunk light tuna, rinsed with water and drained well (yield about 2.5 ounces of tuna)
  • 1/2 cup jarred red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup tomato, diced (about 2-3 small to medium Roma or vine ripened)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional garnish)

Directions

  1. In a medium pot, boil water and cook pasta as directed. 
  2. While pasta is cooking, add basil pesto sauce, lemon juice, olives, diced vegetables and tuna into a large bowl. Mix to combine ingredients.
  3. Once pasta is cooked, rinse with cold water and drain well. Dab pasta with paper towel or clean dishcloth to soak up excess water.
  4. Add pasta to tomato mixture. Mix well to combine all ingredients. 
  5. If desired, squeeze an extra splash of lemon juice over the salad and garnish with fresh basil leaves. 

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Nutrition Facts
1 cup serving:
Calories: 190, Total fat: 7 gr; Saturated fat: 1 gr., Trans fat: 0gr.
Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 390 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 23 gr; Fiber: 4 gr; Sugar: 4 gr; Protein: 9 gr.; Vit. A: 10%, Calcium: 6%, Vit. C: 40%, Iron: 8%, Vit. K: 0.12 mcg; Folate: 0.27 mcg.

 This little tuna press is one of first kitchen gadgets I purchased during my dietetic internship when I stared experimenting more in the kitchen. It is still one of my favorite kitchen tools!

This little tuna press is one of first kitchen gadgets I purchased during my dietetic internship when I stared experimenting more in the kitchen. It is still one of my favorite kitchen tools!

My tuna pasta salad deconstructed. All of this color leads to so much flavor! The combo of basil pesto and lemon juice make the flavors pop in this salad.

Beautiful, healthy and delicious!

Enjoy!
~CWN

I featured this recipe in my first TV segment in three years (!) on KGUN9's The Tucson Morning Blend on July 13, 2015! Check out the clip above. Thanks for everyone's support!

*Note: I recently partnered with the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and I was inspired to create this recipe from the knowledge I've gained about seafood since working with them. 

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