pasta tuna olives celery

Pasta salad with tuna, celery and olives

18 April 2011

This fresh, easy pasta salad has been a lunchtime favorite of mine for years. My lifelong friend Edie dropped off an enormous bowl of it after I had a baby, and I enjoyed it for days and immediately set about making more. Combining crisp bits of celery and onion with earthy flakes of tuna and chopped olives, this dish is tuna salad meets pasta. You can eat it with a fork, but I love to eat mine in a big bowl with a spoon.

I think macaroni is an underrated pasta shape, probably because of its neon-orange Kraft association. Compact and curly, macaroni is a friendly pasta and a cheerful lunchtime companion. This cheese-free macaroni salad is light, crunchy and curiously addictive. And it couldn’t be easier to assemble.

Cook macaroni, chopping some celery and black olives (onion too if you like) while you wait. Make sure you salt the boiling water before you add the macaroni. And don’t overcook – you don’t want mushy macaroni, and al dente pasta is also lower on the glycemic index.

Add pasta, celery, olives, tuna and onion, if using, into a large bowl.

Add a dollop of good mayonnaise and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well. This is not a creamy salad – you’ll want just enough mayonnaise to bring it together. Wonderful warm or cold, this makes an excellent take-to-work lunch.

Fresh herbs – parsley, oregano, thyme, dill or basil – would also be a bright and tasty touch.

Pasta Salad with Tuna, Celery and Olives
Everything my friend Edie cooks is uncomplicated, healthy and delicious. Edie delivered an enormous bowl of this fresh pasta salad after I had a baby. I ate it for days and still wanted more. I never asked her for the recipe, but it hardly needs one.


  • 1/2 lb elbow macaroni
  • 4-5 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 T onion, chopped fine (optional)
  • 1 6.5-oz can tuna, drained
  • 1 4-oz can black olives, drained and roughly chopped
  • Dollop of mayonnaise (approximately 1/4 cup, or to taste)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper


  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Salt water and add macaroni. Cook until al dente (do not overcook, or your salad will be mushy). Drain and transfer to large bowl.
  2. Add chopped celery, olives, onion (if using) and mayonnaise. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes two hearty or three modest servings.


  • Fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme, basil or dill) would be a wonderful addition if you have some handy.
  • Keeps well in refrigerator. Reheat or eat cold.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Brooke Rakow 18 June 2014 at 1:19 pm

I skipped the mayo and used olive oil and red wine vinegar and it was a perfect picnic dinner for all. Thanks!


cg 19 June 2014 at 2:59 pm

hi brooke – great idea for a picnic, thanks so much for sharing!


ms 24 July 2014 at 4:07 pm

My family has been making this SAME macaroni salad for over 60 years – From my grandmother to my mother to me! We add also a little red onion and put in some chopped, hard-boiled eggs. So happy to see you post this, it’s a delicious salad. Thanks!


cg 6 August 2014 at 10:03 am

hi ms – i love hard-boiled eggs with tuna – awesome add! thanks so much for sharing back.


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