This Classic Macaroni Salad is perfect for summer picnics and dinners on the back porch!
I have a strange obsession with pasta. I mean, I do love Italian food…so that makes my obsession a bit less strange. But I love to stand in the grocery store and stare at all of the different types of pasta options. There’s literally dozens of different pastas. The whole process of choosing the correct style of pasta for your dish totally fascinates me. For instance, thick sauces (think ragu-style sauces) call for thick pasta (think tagliatelle or fettuccine). Thinner sauces (think cream sauce) are usually partnered with thinner pastas like spaghetti or linguine. And then there’s the whole category of tube-style pastas like macaroni, penne and rigatoni. I mean, you could get an advanced degree in the art of pairing recipes with the appropriate pasta!
A few weeks ago, near the end of curling season, I was sitting around with my teammates and our opponents after a game (because that’s what you do in curling). We were sipping on beers, and someone commented that they were hungry. Our team captain had the great idea to see if there were any leftovers hanging out in the fridge from the previous weekend’s tournament. Sure enough, there were leftovers! In fact, there was a jackpot of leftovers! He came walking out of the kitchen with 2 massive trays of macaroni salad. Nothing crazy. Just good ole classic macaroni salad. It might have been 9:30pm, but we all dug into that pasta like we hadn’t eaten in days!
Aside from its deliciousness, I was struck by the fact that this leftover macaroni salad wasn’t made with macaroni. (Does that still make it a macaroni salad? Hmm…) Instead, the Italian deli that made it had used ditalini pasta instead. I loved this little twist. In the great big pasta family, ditalini is like a cousin of macaroni. Unlike the curved shape of macaroni, ditalini is shaped like small, straight tubes. Ultimately, it doesn’t change the taste of the salad that much, but I really enjoyed the way it looked in the tray.
Now that it’s finally getting warmer again, it’s time for backyard picnic food. It’s time to get the grill out and invite friends over to hang out. It’s time for Classic Macaroni Salad. Inspired by the curling club leftovers, I pulled out my family recipe for macaroni salad, but I used ditalini pasta instead. This is just a classic summer pasta salad recipe. It’s one of our many go-to side dishes for picnics, and I’m pretty sure I could eat a big plate of this Classic Macaroni Salad as a meal.
While this pasta salad primarily consists of mayo (with a little sour cream added in), it isn’t overly “mayonnaise-y.” We’ve all been to picnics where the pasta salad is swimming in a pool of mayo. That’s not this recipe. I don’t particularly enjoy pasta salads that are loaded with mayo, but feel free to add more to suit your own tastes. You’ll also notice that the pasta soaks up a lot of the mayo after it sits in the fridge for a few hours. That’s fine by me, too. The flavor is still there.
Oh, and pasta salads always taste better after they’ve been able to rest for a bit. So make this batch of Classic Macaroni Salad the day before you want to serve it. (Plus, it’s just one less thing to do on the day of the picnic.) Make up a big batch of this salad, grab some beers and hotdogs and enjoy the summer with friends!
Classic Macaroni Salad
- 16 oz. pasta I used ditalini, but macaroni is fine, too
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 Tbsp vinegar
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ Tbsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ cup red pepper finely diced
- ½ cup celery finely diced
- ¼ cup red onion finely diced
- ½ cup carrot finely diced
- paprika for garnish
- Cook pasta according to the package instructions; rinse in cold water until completely cool. Drain pasta and place in a large bowl.
- Add remaining ingredients (mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, mustard powder, sugar, parsley, salt, pepper, red pepper, celery, onion and carrot). Stir until well combined. Place in refrigerator until well chilled.
- Sprinkle top of salad with paprika before serving.
Looking for more summer pasta salad recipes? Check out these other favorites, too: