Macaroni Salad IngredientsThis recipe is list is short but fresh and full of flavor.
- Short macaroni of your choice. I use ditalini (these extra short tubes) but classic shells or elbow macaroni works great too.
- hard boiled eggs
- red bell pepper
- red onion
- sweet pickles plus their juice
- Dijon mustard
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
How to Make the Best Creamy Macaroni Salad RecipeLike many of my favorite classics, I found the base of this recipe in a recipe collection of one of my grandmother’s. Hers had the same basics but I added more pickles—because I could eat pickles on dirt if I had to—and hard boiled egg—because in my humble opinion, mayo based salads always taste better with a touch of a hard boiled egg.
Cooking the macaroni correctly is essential to a good mac salad. Overcook it and you’ll end up with mushy bites that won’t stand up to the mixing with the vegetables. Cook it al denté as you would your favorite Italian pasta, and the macaroni will become stiff when it chills. Watching your cooking time and cooking to the package directions should ensure the perfect bite. And to be sure, taste test every minute or so when coming to the end of your cooking time.
The macaroni salad trick I learned from my mom is to rinse the pasta after cooking and drain it really well so there’s no residual water lurking in the pasta nook and crannies. Rinsing the pasta under cold water stops the cooking time and removes some of the starches created from cooking. As the pasta cools, toss it a bit with your hands or a spoon so it stays loose and doesn’t clump together.
How to Make this Simple Salad DressingThe dressing for this salad is a mayonnaise base that’s been thinned out with pickle juice reserved from the sweet pickles added to the salad. I always use sweet pickles, so if you use another style, taste test it to your liking. If you’re not a fan of pickles, you could substitute vinegar or lemon juice but taste as you go to get the right balance. But for me, it’s sweet pickle juice all the way.
This salad tastes best when it’s had some time in the refrigerator for the flavors to meld and the mayo sauce to permeate the noodles. Allow for at least an hour before serving, or make it the night before for the best, flavorful taste. And always remember to taste again before serving to decide if more salt and pepper seasoning needs to be added.
And really it’s as simple as that, and way better than mac salad served from a box.