This is a good base recipe that you can customize however you like, to the point where I’ve had it twice in a day and made it taste almost completely different so I didn’t get tired of eating it. In that respect, it’s a good dish for when you’re broke and crushed for time; because it involves pretty cheap ingredients and you can make a huge batch of it, alter it in different, small ways, and have stuff to eat for a while that’s ready to go at a moment’s notice. It’s also good as is so you can make a batch to bring to a party and take home bragging rights for making good food. I looked at a few different recipes right before starting to type up this recipe because I never want to post something you can find just by googling and looking at the first three results, and I noticed that there are a shiiiiiiitload of different interpretations of this dish. My way of doing it combines how my dad used to make it with how my grandmother did it and a few small alterations I’ve come up with over the years.
3 cans of solid white albacore tuna
1 box of elbow macaroni (or other pasta of your choice that isn’t of the long variety)
1 to 1 1/2 cup (depending on how wet you want it) of mayonnaise, or 1/2 to 3/4 cup each of mayo and sour cream (I like the sour cream in there, your mileage may vary, so just mayo is fine if that’s how you want to do it)
3 stalks of celery
2 green onions
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
3-4 tablespoons of pickle juice (depending on how tangy you want it, and nowadays I use the juice from my homemade pickles. If you’re going for more tangy, 4 tablespoons is 1/4 of a cup so you don’t have to do as many spoonfuls)
EDIT: aruvqan-myers reminded me that I used to put a tablespoon of dijon mustard in and the only reason I stopped was sheer forgetfulness. Use one tablespoon less of the pickle juice than your instincts say you should use, and replace it with the dijon mustard.
Start a large pot of salted water on high heat until it hits a full boil, then add the pasta, cooking it for however long it says to on the package. Keep in mind that, unlike most times you make pasta where you want it slightly under-cooked so it reaches full doneness in whatever hot sauce you’re combining it with, this is a cold dish so you want to cook them all the way to how you want them in the end dish and they’ll be going into an ice bath once they’re done.
While the pasta is cooking, in the huge tupperware container you’ll use to store the final result, shred the tuna with a fork into pieces as small as you can get them. Prep the celery and green onion. Wash both, making sure to get any water out of the tubes of green onion so it doesn’t come spilling out later all over the floor, take both ends off the celery if you’re using it straight off the bunch (I usually cut off the bottom inch or so and cut the other end just short of the part where it crimps in), and take the root end off the green onion. Separate the stalks of green onion from each other and cut them all length-wise into about 1/8-inch strips, then mince them so you have squares of green onion bits. Cut the celery stalks roughly in half so they’re divided into wider bottom ends and thinner top ends. Cut the top ends into two or three 1/4-inch strips and the bottom parts into three or four strips the same size as the other strips. Dice those so you have small cubes of celery.
Combine all the ingredients in the tupperware with the tuna, and stir them together a bit so you don’t have to stir as much once the pasta goes in. Prep the ice bath for the pasta by putting salted water and ice cubes into a bowl big enough to dip your pasta-filled strainer into without overflowing, and I recommend keeping it in the sink so if the water does overflow once the pasta goes in, you don’t make a mess of your counter. When the pasta is done cooking, dip the strainer in the ice bath and stir the pasta around to ensure even cooling. Taste the pasta to make sure it’s not too salty, since it went from salted hot water to salted cold water. If it is too salty, rinse it with cold tap water until it’s how you want it. Dump the pasta into the tupperware with the other ingredients, and stir it all around until it’s evenly combined. Depending on how cold you can get the pasta, it should be ready to serve pretty much immediately, but if the mayo and/or sour cream thins out too much while mixing, pop it in the fridge for an hour or two so it tightens up a bit before serving.
When you’re ready to eat it, it’s good to go as is but you can also experiment a bit with adding things to it (strangely, I like a bit of ketchup and hot sauce mixed in) and see how you want it to be. If you’re having it with somebody else, customize it in your own ways and then try a bite of each other’s. However you choose to have it, enjoy.