Ask anyone what their favorite summer salad is and many people will say “potato salad”, “macaroni salad”, or “coleslaw”. But then ask them for their favorite recipe and odds are you’ll get a dozen different answers, typically including “my mother makes the best macaroni salad” or “my grandmother’s German potato salad is amazing”. Truthfully, each one of these recipes would be slightly different and still “the best”. Yet cross reference the ingredients of these recipes and you’ll get very different results. Some might include pickle relish, mustard or bacon while others would scoff at those ingredients. One thing’s for sure though, any dish with jello as an ingredient is not a “salad”.*
Classic macaroni salad, one made with either short cut or elbow shaped macaroni and a mayonnaise based dressing can be found in various forms from school lunches, to southern BBQ shacks to every deli case. These salads started in the late 19th century and early versions were often elaborate molded affairs. Pasta salads are an offshoot of this and typically use other forms of “macaroni” (shells, bow-ties, rotini) and are dressed with a vinaigrette style dressing.
The recipe for the Macaroni Salad below is courtesy of the my mother and really is “the best”. My mom makes this every summer, usually served with some sort of smoked pulled pork and it’s so good, people will come to dinner just because they hear it’s on the menu. We fight over the leftovers.
Do you have a favorite version of macaroni salad? Let me know in the comments below.
* The comment about jello is a nod to some of my coworkers who have an ongoing argument every year about if “jello salad” is a salad or a dessert. I am firmly in the dessert camp on that one.