grannie geek, perfect macaroni salad

Perfect Macaroni Salad

My husband and I love macaroni salad.  I frequently buy it from the deli counter, because I really like the creamy, tangy consistency paired with firm noodles, sweet pickle relish, a hint of diced onion.

Over the years, I’ve made several batches, but none came close to the creaminess of the store bought kind.  The macaroni always absorbed all the dressing.

I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong.  Hmmmm . . .

Well, last week, I decided to try again, always in search of the perfect macaroni salad recipe.  I boiled some elbow macaroni, drained it, and put it in a plastic bag with a little olive oil.  I tossed the bag into the refrigerator to chill.  Unexpectedly, Richard and I had to run an errand.  Then something else came up.  And the macaroni sat in the fridge for a couple of days.

OK – a few days went by.  And I thought I’d better use up that macaroni.  Wow – when I pulled it out of the refrigerator, I couldn’t believe how nicely the noodles firmed up.  They weren’t mushy, but had a great tooth, just like the macaroni salad from the store.  Eureka!!!  I believe I’d found the answer to my problem.  Chilling the macaroni transformed it into the perfect salad noodle.

Excitedly, I whipped up a batch and it was indeed perfect.  Richard loved it.  You don’t have to refrigerate the macaroni for several days, but overnight or 24 hours wouldn’t be beyond reason.  The finished salad stayed nice and creamy until we ate it all over the next couple of days.

Another great find was at the grocery store.  I always have too many condiments in my fridge – pickles, mustard of every kind, mayo, hoisin sauce, soy, pickled ginger, harissa paste, Worcestershire, roasted peppers, Tabasco – you know how it goes.  I can’t bear to throw any of it away.  You never know when you might need some errant ingredient.  More often than not, I do.

So, as I was strolling down the pickle aisle, I found a jar of sweet-hot pickle relish.  It’s bottled by the same folks from Famous Dave’s Ribs.  Gee I’d never thought of HOT relish before, and in the cart it went.  That relish sure made a nice difference – sweet and spicy.  If you like a spicy kick, I’d highly recommend you get a jar.  Now, I have two different kinds of relish in the fridge – oh well.

Keep in mind, too, that I use half mayo and haft Greek yogurt for all my dressings.  You’ll barely notice the difference, and the substitution reduces calories.  Hooray!!

Just for you, here’s the recipe:

Perfect Macaroni Salad
Creamy, sweet, spicy pasta salad
Recipe type: Pasta, Salad
  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 1 small jar chopped pimento
  • 2 - 3 Tablespoons pickle relish
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped black olives - ½ small can
  • ¼ medium onion, finely diced, white, red or green
  • For The Dressing
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise, a little more if you wish
  • ¼ plain Greek yogurt, a little more if you wish
  • 2-3 Tablespoons hot-spicy or sweet pickle relish, a little more if you wish
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar - white, red, cider, whatever you like or have handy
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Boil the macaroni according to package directions. Drain thoroughly. Put into a plastic bag with a Tablespoonful of olive oil. Seal and refrigerate overnight or 24 hours. And if the macaroni is in the refrigerator for a day or two, no problem.
  2. Make the dressing. Put dressing ingredients into a large bowl. Whisk together. Give it a taste to check for seasoning.
  3. Add the macaroni and mix together with a spoon or spatula.
  4. Add the pimento, black olives, onion, and relish.
  5. Stir all ingredients, then check for seasoning. Add what you think best - a little more salt, relish. cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, so the flavors will blend together.
If you want a little crunch, you might add a stalk of celery finely diced.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 8 Calories: 1378 Fat: 50g Saturated fat: 9g Unsaturated fat: 40g Trans fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 200g Sugar: 32g Sodium: 1840mg Fiber: 11g Protein: 33g Cholesterol: 30mg