Nicoise Pasta Salad
Take the classic French salad for a spin with this quick and easy Nicoise Pasta Salad. A perfect weeknight dinner the whole family will love!
Originally posted December 2016; updated September 2020. This page contains affiliate links. See below for full disclosure statement.
Do you recognize this pasta dish? I posted a similar picture of it in one of my Menu Plan Monday posts back in October upon my return from the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. This Nicoise Pasta Salad was inspired by the Chopped-style contest I participated in during the recipe writing and food photography workshop I took at the conference. My photograph was one of the winners and I loved the idea of the recipe so I decided to make it for real and see how it came out.
End result: a quick (takes less than 30 minutes!) and easy (just see for yourself in the video below!), nutritious and delicious, and kid-, mom-, and husband approved recipe. I call that a winner in my book, wouldn’t you?! Since I had more ingredients at my disposal when I cooked this at home, I made a few modifications from what was created at the conference, making the recipe more similar to the classic Nicoise salad.
What’s In Nicoise Pasta Salad
If you’re not familiar, Nicoise salad is a traditional French salad composed of lettuce, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, olives, green beans, and anchovies. Many Nicoise salads served at French bistros also include boiled potatoes and you may find the tuna fresh or canned.
As you can see from the recipe below, I kept many components of the classic salad the same in my Nicoise Pasta Salad, but I did make some modifications, many of which were to keep the recipe as close to what was created at the conference as possible.
A Twist on the Traditional
For the contest we didn’t have green beans, but there was some baby spinach on the “pantry” table, which we cut into thin strips (a chopping technique called chiffonade). It was a great way to add some color and of course some nutrition.
There also were no potatoes when we created the original recipe, and personally I’m not a big fan of white potatoes (unless they’re roasted and super crispy or in the form of a well done French fry), so whenever I order a Nicoise salad I get it without the potatoes anyway. Plus when turning the Nicoise salad into a Nicoise pasta salad one certainly doesn’t need the extra carbs from potatoes.
Feta cheese isn’t traditionally added to Nicoise salads, but it was another ingredient in the “pantry” at the contest and the flavors complemented each other so well.
One ingredient I did add here that wasn’t in the contest version is hard-boiled eggs. I usually have a batch in the fridge as add-ons for my girls’ school lunch, so it was an easy addition and a classic component of the Nicoise salad. If you don’t have hard-boiled eggs on hand when you go to make this recipe, don’t sweat it. It will be just as delicious without them.
I used tuna canned in water, which is a classic part of a Nicoise salad, but you can also use freshly cooked tuna or tuna in olive oil. One of the things I love about this recipe is that it’s a great way to get your kids to eat more fish, which is filled with nutrients your little ones need.
The dressing for this pasta salad is a very light red wine vinaigrette. I added some oregano for an additional burst of flavor and Dijon mustard and garlic would be delicious additions as well.
Make It Your Own
As with all recipes, you can certainly tweak the recipe to make it your own – I myself may make some changes like adding green beans and anchovies the next time I make this dish (which will be very soon, I promise you that!). I also plan to make a salmon Nicoise pasta salad instead of the classic tuna version.
If you’re gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta. Don’t do dairy? Leave off the feta. No eggs around? Skip ’em. The best thing about all these variations is that they are all easy and don’t require too much extra time.
Make It Kid-Friendly
While my kids really enjoyed this Nicoise Pasta Salad, I know not all kids will be as inclined to give this composed dish a try. That’s why I serve this as an interactive meal, meaning I put each ingredient in its own bowl and set up dinner buffet style, so each person can make his or her own pasta bowl. (I do the same thing with Buddha bowls, salads, homemade pizza, and pretty much any other meal I can.)
Serving meals in this interactive/deconstructed style takes away some of the pressure kids feel to eat foods they don’t like and may even get them to try something new.
Nicoise Pasta Salad
Canned tuna, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, hard-boiled eggs, and baby spinach are tossed with whole wheat pasta and a red wine vinaigrette to make this Nicoise Pasta Salad, a twist on the classic French salad. This nutritious and delicious dish is ready in less than 30 minutes, making it the perfect weeknight meal the whole family will love.
Pescatarian, Nut-Free, Kosher
For the dressing:
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- Freshly ground pepper
For the pasta salad:
- 1 pound whole wheat fussili (or pasta of your choice, including gluten-free)
- Two 5-ounce cans tuna in water, drained and flaked
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
- 1 cup thinly sliced baby spinach (cut chiffonade style)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus more for garnish
- To make the dressing, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, oregano, and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
- Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse pasta in cold water to stop cooking. Transfer to large mixing bowl and toss with half of the dressing.
- Add flaked tuna, tomatoes, olives, eggs, spinach, and feta cheese to pasta. Toss with remaining dressing. Portion nicoise pasta salad onto plates and garnish with additional feta cheese, if desired.
To make gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 390Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 433mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 8gSugar: 2gProtein: 21g
Nutrition information was calculated by Nutritionix. It may not be 100% accurate.
Have you had a Nicoise salad?
What modifications would you make to this Nicoise pasta salad?
Share with me in the comments section below!
love finding ways to use tuna, it’s just so easy to always have on hand and great protein!
Totally agree Amanda!
This looks absolutely fabulous Jess! I love the flavor combination of the light red wine vinegar and Dijon, that sounds incredible. I’m so bummed I couldn’t go to that workshop but I hope to in the future! Sounds like great information!
Thanks so much Liz! I’ll definitely be adding the Dijon to the vinaigrette next time! It goes so well w tuna and feta too! Hope they do the workshop again and you get to go – it was fantastic!
I love this spin on a classic salad! Very creative!
Thanks so much Lindsey!
YES! I want to try this because all the flavors seem so perfect for each other! Do you think it would be just as good with quinoa?
Thanks Chrissa – the flavors really do go so well! I think it would be great with quinoa! May be lighter though as I find pasta to be a little more bulky, but would be a nice lunch salad or light dinner. You could also toss in some arugula to bulk it up some more. Would love to know if you try it like that and how it comes out!
Very pretty, Jessica!
Thanks so much Sally!
Looks so great, Jessica!
This sounds so light and flavorful! I love an amped up tuna salad!
Thanks Jamie! Hope you give it a try!
Oh man, I love recipes like this!! I don’t know why I don’t make pasta salads more often – I love how veggie packed and delicious they can be. This one in particular looks and sounds incredible!
I know what you mean Kat! I don’t make them often enough either. Hope you give it a try and thank you!
I’ve never heard of this salad before! Looks delicious, all my favorite ingredients!
Really?! I’m so surprised! Well, you should make the salad and the pasta salad!!
I love canned tuna, but never thought to use it this way- thanks for the great idea, Jessica!
When I think of tuna used in pasta I think of the old fashioned tuna noodle casserole, which never appealed to me. This is so much more delicious (IMO!). Hope you give it a try!
I love this version of pasta salad!! I love a good pasta salad as a make ahead lunch idea for all week long and this would be perfect. I know my husband prefers canned salmon over tuna so I will definitely be trying this salad with that modification in mind.
Thanks so much Rebecca! It is a great lunch meal too – you can even boost the greens by adding some arugula to it. I actually meant to make it with canned salmon, but I opened the tuna too fast! I will be making it with salmon next time and would love to know how it comes out if you try it!
I’ve never had a nicoise salad, but this sounds delicious! Love the addition of fresh spinach with eggs and tuna. It gave it a pop of color. Definitely trying this!
Really Marie? I’m so excited that I’ve introduced the Nicoise salad to so many people – guess I thought it was more popular! Thanks so much – the more colorful the better. Hope you enjoy!
What a great pasta salad idea! I should make this for my husband – he’s a big fan of hard boiled eggs and I always need new protein-rich lunches for him.
Thanks so much Alisa! I hope your hubby likes it!
What a great recipe with ingredients most people have on hand! And one to have in your back pocket during this busy holiday season!
Thanks Bridget! I love recipes that include pantry staples and are quick!
Quick, easy and tasty. Love the nutritional and taste boost from the additional ingredients.
Thanks so much Roxana!
Love this combination of pasta salad and tuna nicoise, and another great way to use canned tuna!
Thanks so much Katie! Hope you give it a try!
Love this creative take on Nicoise Salad. So much more convenient (and not to mention affordable) thanks to the canned tuna!
Thanks Kara – that’s for sure!
I am all over this, minus the olives- blech. Hate them. Maybe diced pickles for the salty tang?
You don’t like olives?! OMG! We love them in this house, the girls included. Pickles are an interesting idea. LMK if you try that!