Classic Macaroni Salad


I was nine years old when I attended my first pot luck picnic that didn’t involve my family’s Italian cooking. My grammar school best friend was on her way to a summer bon fire and picnic, and as an honorary member of her family {which automatically happens when you’re nine and sleep over every weekend}, I was invited to join them.

Unlike our family picnics and reunions that consisted of all-day bocce games and mile-long tables of antipasti, this picnic was real. Real, just like I had seen on The Dukes of Hazard, with the promise of fried chicken, fruit pies, watermelon, corn on the cob, and elbow macaroni salad {whatever that was}.

Growing up we had penne, rigatoni or spaghetti. That’s it. Red gravy or butter. So as a kid, the thought of eating elbow macaroni with mayonnaise, especially if being served alongside a camp fire where I might have the chance to sit next to my friend’s {cute} older brother, was exciting.

As my cousins and I entered high school, our frequent  warm-weather family gatherings became few and far between, with summer jobs taking precedence. But there was one 1985 family reunion I remember well.

While moving into a new apartment over the winter, my Italian grandmother uncovered a Betty Crocker Cookbook she had been given in the 1950’s. And much like the Julie and Julia story, she cooked her way through that entire book, from December to August. And sitting on the picnic table that summer, in place of the marinated artichokes and fried peppers, was a heaping bowl of Betty's elbow macaroni salad.

While researching recipes, I found the dressing to be similar but the vegetables varied depending on the region. Some recipes called for red and green peppers, while others incorporated green peas, cucumbers or even sweet pickles. The recipe below incorporates my favorites; substitutions and additions are welcomed. What’s your favorite combo?

Classic Macaroni Salad

Yield: Serves 10
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes
Allergy info: soy-free; contains wheat, gluten, eggs

1 lb. dry elbow macaroni
1 cup homemade mayonnaise
3/4 cup minced red onion (about 1 medium)
3/4 cup diced carrot, 1/8-inch (about 3 carrots)
3/4 cup diced celery, 1/8-inch (about 2 large stalks)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons organic sugar
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook macaroni 8 minutes. Transfer to a colander, rinse under cool running water 2 minutes. Drain and transfer macaroni to a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the mayonnaise, stir to combine. Cover, refrigerate 30 minutes.

Remove macaroni from refrigerator. In the same bowl add remaining mayonnaise, onion, carrot, celery, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Using a large soon, gently mix to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold.

Food safety note:
Because this recipe contains mayonnaise, it should be kept cold at all times. If serving outdoors, place the bowl of macaroni salad in a larger bowl of ice, set on ice packs, or keep inside an ice-filled cooler.

Post by Dawn Viola :

  • DNese

    This looks so YUMMY. I can’t wait to try it. I love your blog. I look forward to all your posts. Keep’em coming.