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A Better Macaroni Salad

This macaroni salad has all the appeal of the old-fashioned, mayo-dressed version but with a few updates to make it taste brighter and better.



Macaroni salad is a staple at summer picnics, BBQs, and potlucks. I call this one “better” because it’s got all the appeal of the old-school, mayo-dressed version but with a few updates – namely, sour cream, Dijon mustard, fresh basil, and loads of crisp, crunchy veggies – to make it taste brighter. Cutting the traditional all-mayo dressing with sour cream and mustard makes the salad tangy and less mayonnaise-y, while the basil and veggies add fresh summer flavor. The key to the perfect creamy texture is thinning the dressing with a bit of water, so it coats the pasta without getting too clingy. However, keep in mind that the dressing thickens and gets absorbed by the noodles as the salad sits, so while all the components can be prepared ahead, it’s best to wait until right before serving to toss everything together. Macaroni salad pairs nicely with burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, BBQ ribs, or grilled or BBQ chicken.


WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE MACARONI SALAD



You don’t have to use elbow noodles to make macaroni salad. As you can see, I use cavatappi; farfalle or fusilli would also work well.


STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until tender according to package instructions (about 1 minute past al dente).



While the pasta boils, prep all the add-ins.



Drain the pasta in a colander and let cool to room temperature



In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, mustard, vinegar, water, salt, pepper, and onion powder.



Whisk until combined.



Add the cooked pasta, carrots, celery, bell pepper, scallions, and basil to the bowl.



Stir until evenly combined.



Serve immediately or let sit for up to an hour at room temperature before serving. Keep in mind that the dressing will thicken a bit as it sits.


HOW TO MAKE MACARONI SALAD AHEAD


The dressing can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated; the pasta, vegetables, and basil can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Before serving, bring all of the components to room temperature. Add the dressing to a large bowl and whisk to loosen, then stir in the pasta, vegetables and herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.



A Better Macaroni Salad


By Jennifer Segal


his macaroni salad has all the appeal of the old-fashioned, mayo-dressed version but with a few updates to make it taste brighter and better.


Servings: 8 to 12 Prep Time: 20 Minutes Cook Time: 20 Minutes Total Time: 40 Minutes


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound macaroni, cavatappi, farfalle, or fusilli pasta

  • 1 cup mayonnaise, best quality such as Hellmann's or Duke's

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 3½ tablespoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

  • ¼ cup water

  • 1¼ teaspoons salt, plus more for cooking the pasta

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • ¾ teaspoon onion powder

  • ½ cup finely diced or grated carrots, from 1 to 2 carrots

  • ¾ cup finely diced celery, from 2 to 3 celery stalks

  • 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, finely diced

  • 6 scallions, light and dark green parts, finely sliced

  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil

INSTRUCTIONS


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions until tender (about 1 minute past al dente). Drain and let cool to room temperature.

  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, mustard, vinegar, water, salt, pepper, and onion powder.

  3. Add the cooked pasta, carrots, celery, bell pepper, scallions, and basil to the bowl and stir until evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve the salad immediately or let it sit for up to an hour at room temperature before serving. (Keep in mind that the dressing will thicken and get absorbed by the noodles as the salad sits.)

  4. Make-Ahead Instructions: The dressing can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated; the pasta, vegetables, and basil can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Before serving, bring all of the components to room temperature. Add the dressing to a large bowl and whisk to loosen, then stir in the pasta, vegetables and herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, and serve.

  5. Update Note: In response to feedback from readers, this recipe was retested and updated on &frac73;/22 to include less sugar.

NUTRITION INFORMATION

Per serving (12 servings)

  • Calories:336

  • Fat:19 g

  • Saturated fat:5 g

  • Carbohydrates:35 g

  • Sugar:6 g

  • Fiber:2 g

  • Protein:6 g

  • Sodium:268 mg

  • Cholesterol:17 mg


Special thanks to Jennifer Segal, for the recipe and images. You can support Jennifer by purchasing her cookbook, "Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook," featuring over 100 delightful recipes.

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