I do enjoy a good pasta salad: crisp, blanched vegetables and yummy al dente pasta shapes all drenched in a homemade vinaigrette and spiked with whatever herbs and spices strike my fancy. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. This is Macaroni Salad. I can’t even call it pasta salad, because it isn’t shi-shi-fau-fau enough. This is the macaroni that you take to the covered dish Wednesday night supper. The one that you make for the little league end-of-season party. The Dish of Choice for the swim team party, the block party, the I’m-sorry-your-aunt-died get together. I grew up eating this stuff, and when I make it for myself, I stay pretty true to Mom’s way of making it. And now, I’m going to share it with you. Use this as a basic recipe template, and feel free to add/substitute to your Heart’s Content. But do try it The Original Way at least once. Especially if you are a fan of celery seed and tuna. You won’t be sorry.
I never measure when I make this. The whole idea is to make enough dressing goo to coat all the pasta pretty liberally. By the next day, most of it will have soaked in, leaving the pasta somewhat dry. If you don’t like it that way, make a Very Lot of dressing goo. If you like your macaroni on the dry-ish side, make Just Enough. Whatever that means is up to you.
My Favorite Mom-Style Macaroni Salad
For the Dressing Portion of the Activity:
- sour cream
- spicy mustard
- celery seed
Mix equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream. Add in enough mustard so that the whole deal is decidedly yellow-ish. Season with salt and pepper, and add enough vinegar (I used white balsamic–use your favorite) to make it the consistency of thick-ish ranch dressing. Add about 1/2-1 tsp celery seed (depending on how much you like it. Remember, you can use whatever you want). Stir and stir, and taste. You might need to add a squirt of honey or other sweetener if it’s tasting a little too Pointy to you. I like it pointy, so I skip the sweetener.
When I was done, I probably had about 1 1/4 cups of dressing. Make more or less, depending upon how gooey you like your macaroni. Oh, yeah–if you want, you can add some grated Parmesan to your dressing. I didn’t this time (and I didn’t miss it), but I’ve done that before, and it is Very Good.
For the Macaroni Portion of the Activity:
- 1 pound macaroni–shells or elbows. You can use Special Shapes, but I stay with the basic Loved Since Childhood shapes for this one
- medium onion, diced (as much or as little as you like)
- celery, small dice (ditto)
- some dill pickles, all cut up into wee cubes. Or just use relish. (double ditto)
- 1 big old can of tuna
- some cheddar cheese cut into 1/4″ cubes (I also used some pepper jack, because it said it wanted to join the party. Who was I to say no)? (triple ditto)
Cook the macaroni until it is done to your liking, and drain well. Put it into a big old bowl, and stir in the dressing. Yes, while the macaroni is still hot, so it will soak in. Then, stir in the onion, celery, pickles and tuna until it is all nicely Mixed Up. I do this one ingredient at a time, just to give the macaroni time to cool off some before adding the cheese. Add the cheese cubes last. Refrigerate until cold. Put in your face.
Mom used to put in shredded carrot, and you can if you want. I don’t. You can leave out the tuna, or substitute chicken, if you want. You can also add in chopped herbs if you feel called to do so.
Do you have a favorite “mom-style” dish that you go back to again and again? I’d love to hear about it so I can make it and Eat It. And maybe share with The Beloved.