This is what I think of as the platonic ideal of macaroni salad. The kind of macaroni salad you end up getting at a great diner or deli counter, not the “meh” mac salad at a mediocre supermarket. It’s truly easy to make, and uses ingredients you probably have in your panty. And while there is no shame (NO SHAME!) in buying packaged macaroni salad, this is just leaps and bounds above.
This is what you are thinking of when you are planning those summer cookouts!
Why does macaroni I salad have to be made with macaroni? You could use another pasta in this salad, and it just wouldn’t be the same, not at all. I make loads of pasta salads, and many of them involve a mayo/sour cream-based dressing and some finely chopped vegetables as this one does, but there is a particular combination of mayo and sour cream and veggies and a touch of something pickley that just demands to be made with elbows.
Cheap and Satisfying
When I was a young adult, trying to make my grocery store dollars stretch as far as possible, I would sometimes end up with a deli container of this in my fridge.
Basically this—and a usually insipid potato salad—were the cheapest things at the deli counter, and one can only eat so many bagels. Believe me; I almost subsisted entirely on bagels (with lox spread on the days when I was feeling flush) for a generous stretch of time when I was willing to trade protein and variety for cocktails.
This is the best kind of old-fashioned macaroni salad, starring a simple dressing and elbows, perfect for picnics and barbecues.Tweet This
Old Fashioned Macaroni Salad
This classic recipe was inspired by Sheila Lukins macaroni salad recipe in her terrific U.S.A. Cookbook, who shares the opinion that macaroni salad just has to be made with macaroni. You could simplify it even further if you were going for bare bones, brass tacks mac salad. Leave out the tomatoes or one of the herbs or the peppers, if you wish.
Try not to leave out the relish—to me, is what makes picnic-style macaroni salad what it is. And while this isn’t as overdressed and hyper-creamy as some macaroni salads, it’s still delightfully creamy and soothing in its mildness.
Why is My Macaroni Salad Not Creamy?
Taking the time to cook your pasta perfectly is the key to perfect macaroni salad. Do not undercook your pasta. This is not the place for al dente pasta. Cooking your pasta thoroughly until tender means the sauce will adhere and coat the pasta well, and provide that ideal creamy texture.
Should Pasta Be Rinsed for Macaroni Salad?
Yes, for macaroni salad it should be. We don’t usually rinse pasta when we aree serving it hot with a sauce, as the starch coating the cooked pasta helps the sauce adhere to the noodles better. In the case of a cold salad, the starch might actually make the salad sticky or even a bit grainy. For the ultimate creamy experience, rinse the pasta under cool water before tossing it with the dressing.
Drain the Pasta Well Before Mixing with the Dressing
Draining the pasta thoroughly before combining the noodles with the dressing is key. Otherwise excess water clinging to the elbows might dilute the dressing and prevent the dressing from coating the pasta evenly.
What to Serve with Macaroni Salad:
And if you were going to create a big old spread of summer salads, you could nestle this up with a chicken salad, a shrimp salad, and a classic potato salad (as you can see, that was what happened chez us this day).
- Mayonnaise-Free Potato Salad
- Bright, Herby Three Bean Salad
- Grilled Chicken Breasts with Lime, Roasted Garlic and Fresh Herb Marinade (sliced, at room temperature)
- Greek Tomato and Cucumber Salad
- And of course, this Classic Macaroni Salad
Other Pasta Salad Recipes:
Other pasta salads that at not macaroni salad, not at all, but are still very good pasta salads.
- Simple Vegetarian Spring Pasta Salad
- Perfect End of Summer Pasta Salad
- Pasta Salad with Chicken and Chipotle Dressing
- Greek Chicken Pasta Salad
- Pasta Salad with Chicken, Green Olives, and Ramp Vinaigrette
- Simplest Tomato, Corn, Basil and Mozzarella Pasta Salad
- Pasta and Salmon Salad with Ramp Dressing
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Classic Macaroni Salad
- ½ pound dried elbow macaroni
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup milk
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- ½ cup seeded and diced plum tomatoes
- ½ cup finely diced bell pepper yellow, red, green, or a combination
- ½ cup minced red onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain and rinse in a colander under cold water.
- Place the mayonnaise, sour cream, milk and salt and pepper in a bowl and stir to combine. Add the drained cooled macaroni, and toss to combine. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, dill, parsley and relish and toss to combine very well.
- Cover the salad and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving and adjust the seasonings.
Why is My Macaroni Salad Not Creamy?Taking the time to cook your pasta perfectly is the key to perfect macaroni salad. Do not undercook your pasta. This is not the place for al dente pasta. Cooking your pasta thoroughly until tender means the sauce will adhere and coat the pasta well, and provide that ideal creamy texture
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.