Good Times: Macaroni Salad

For many years growing up I spent summers at my aunt and uncle's house.  They were part of a tradition that had been going on for decades.  Every Sunday, beginning on the Sunday before Memorial Day and lasting until the Sunday before Labor Day, they and a few other families in the "circle" had a family picnic at a shared piece of property at the lake.  There was not much there beyond some grills, a couple of outhouses, a manual water pump (I loved that thing), and a small amount of sandy beach.  This place was affectionately known to everyone as The Landing. 


The absolute best part about it was a floating deck which was about 30 yards from the shore.  As a child it seemed more like half a mile.  We would use it to jump and dive and as a safe zone for water tag.  It was the highlight of every weekend.  Nobody ever wanted to go to shore because that meant you would have to eat and wait an hour to go back in the water.

There was always a trememdous amount of food available.  The dads were always trying to outgrill each other.  Some of the ladies would test new recipes every week (this frequently meant something with Jello).  Others would stick to their "tried and true".  One of those tried and true recipes inspired today's recipe for All American Macaroni Salad.  Just a few fresh ingredients come together to make this summer comfort food.  Make some for your next picnic... I won't even tell if you sneak back in the water before your time is up.


... family picnics

All American Macaroni Salad


Before you start:

I like to use Barilla Plus pasta.  The texture is great and the Plus version has some added health benefits.  It is pasta that is better for you, but doesn't taste like it is better for you.

To soften the blow of the red onion soak the chopped onion in cold water for 3-5 minutes before adding to salad.

Use only the meat of the tomato.  The juice and seeds will make the salad soggy and unappealling.

Peeling the cucumber is optional, but highly recommended.  Cucumber peels can sometimes be bitter.

Be sure to rinse the pasta.  This is one of the few times you will see me write that.

Whisking the dressing together before mixing in is critical.  If you skip this step you may end up with little clumps.  The idea is to get everything consistently covered with just a light coating of dressing.

The ingredients:

2 cups dry elbow macaroni

1/2 cup diced celery

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped green olives

1/2 cup diced tomato

1/2 cup diced cucumber

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar

3 tablespoons sour cream

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

The method:

  1. Cook macaroni according to instructions (al dente), rinse in cold water, and drain.
  2. Place macaroni, celery, onion, olives, tomato, and cucumber in a bowl. 
  3. In another bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream, and salt.
  4. Stir dressing together with salad and stir until combined.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Store in refrigerator.