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~Classic-Style Chunky Tuna, Egg & Shell Pasta Salad~

IMG_5900We Americans have been eating tuna salad for over a hundred years. The first reference to tuna salad appeared in 1907, and by 1914 dozens of recipes had been published.  Tuna salad, classically made with with celery and mayonnaise, was a spin off of  chicken salad,  with tuna salad being touted as more convenient (due to the use of canned tuna) -- a big reason for its rise in popularity.  Because of its nutritional value, it was marketed as diet food during the 1960s.

IMG_5893Until the 1800s, the sardine was the canned fish Americans ate.  Tuna was available, but, what did arrive on our shores was imported by and for Italian immigrants.  That remained the case until 1903 when poor ocean conditions made for terrible sardine fishing -- the sardine-packing industry almost went under. It was then that Albert P. Halfill, an executive at the Southern California Fish Company in Los Angeles decided to look for an alternative. After experimenting with halibut, rock fish and albacore tuna (the latter of which was abundant off the California coast), he decided on albacore tuna packed in California olive oil.  The next task was to sell a product there was no market for.  

The selling point for Albacore tuna was to compare it to the mild white-meat chicken breast.  Via a combination of free tastings at county fairs and free tin giveaways with the purchase of coffee in grocery stores, it caught on and went on to become a pantry staple and convenience food in American kitchens, and, a special at lunch-counters everywhere.  By 1913 there were nine plants operating along the California coast and that grew to thirty-six canneries in five years.

Tuna salad, to tuna sandwiches, to tuna pasta salad:

IMG_58581  12-ounce can solid white Albacore tuna packed in water, well-drained

3  cups al dente cooked medium-shell pasta

3-6  hard-cooked extra-large eggs, 1-2 eggs per 1 cup cooked pasta

3/4  cup medium-diced celery

1/2  cup thin-sliced onion, cut into half-moons, half-moons cut in half

3/4  cup high-quality store-bought mayonnaise

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

2  tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind pepper

IMG_5861IMG_5861Step 1.  Open the tuna and invert it onto a paper-towel-lined plate to drain thoroughly, about 5 minutes.  Using a fork, carefully break/flake the tuna into large, chunky bite-sized pieces.  Do your best to avoid mashing or smashing the tuna.

IMG_5865IMG_5865IMG_5865IMG_5865~Step 2. In a large bowl, measure and place the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, sweet pickle relish, celery seed, salt and pepper.  Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly fold these ingredients together.  Add the diced celery and sliced onion and fold them into the dressing.

IMG_5868 IMG_5868 IMG_5875 IMG_5875 IMG_5875 IMG_5875 IMG_5884 IMG_5884~Step 3. Add the cooked shell pasta to the dressing mixture in the bowl  Using the same spatula, gently fold in the pasta until it is thoroughly enrobed in the dressing mixture.  Slice the hard-cooked eggs into wedges, adding them to the bowl as you work.  Using the spatula, gently and thoroughly, fold the eggs into the pasta salad. Cover and refrigerate several hours to overnight.

An American pantry staple & convenience food that's here to stay:

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eed83e1a200dClassic-Style Chunky Tuna, Egg & Shell Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields 6 cups/6 servings.

Special Equipment List: paper towels; fork; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b02a30d4f6505200bCook's Note: Wish-Bone Italian dressing.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  To name a few: drizzled on my garden salad or slathered on my turkey sandwich, as a dip for my vegetables, as a marinade for my chicken, and, as the dressing for ~ The Retro & Original Wish-Bone Italian Pasta Salad Recipe ~.  It isn't gourmet, but, when prepared correctly, it is remarkably delicious -- try making this salad with a can of well-drained tuna folded into it too.  Just do it!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)


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