I was sooooo bummed to hear about the Sweet Tomatoes restaurant chain closing down in the pandemic. I’m overall a huge buffet person (picky eaters, UNITE!), but I really loved going to Sweet Tomatoes with my mom when I was in high school and college. It was a place we could go for a filling, delicious, healthy meal (don’t forget the coupon!) and we did it maybe once a month. Among their many yummy recipes was my personal favorite – the Tuna Tarragon Salad.
I’ve been using this copycat recipe for years but I guess I can share it guilt-free since they closed their chain. In the original, they use three different pastas – including a green fettuccine – but I usually just throw it together with whatever I have on hand. The best/most important parts are the tarragon, the sweet pickle relish, and the white pepper. For the tarragon, you can use fresh or dried. If you use fresh you should chop it up finely and use twice as much. You really want that black licorice flavor to come through! And if you don’t have sweet pickle relish, use regular relish, but add a Tablespoon or so of sugar – and try to get some pickle juice in there as well!
- 4 cups small dry pasta, (shells, ditalini, or fusilli work great!)
- 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 (6 oz) cans tuna in water
- 1⁄2 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1⁄2 cup sweet pickle relish
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1⁄2 cup sour cream
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1 cup cucumber, diced
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons dried tarragon leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon white pepper
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Salt the water well and cook to “al dente” – a little hard. Immediately strain pasta and cool it down by running cold water over pasta in strainer (or adding ice cubes). Drain pasta completely and place in a large bowl. Coat pasta with olive oil to prevent sticking.
Drain and crumble the tuna fish into the pasta bowl. Add all the other ingredients and gently combine. You can taste at this point, but the dried tarragon and white pepper need to marinate for a couple hours to really open up. I recommend putting in the fridge for 2-3 hours, THEN tasting. Adjust the white pepper and sweet relish as necessary. You can also add pickle juice or more tarragon if you like a little more zing!
NOTE: if the pasta isn’t completely cold when you start it can absorb some of the liquid from the dressing, making it dry and clumpy the next day. A simple fix is to add just a tablespoon or two of water and stirring it up. Works every time!
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