Simple Macaroni Salad

5 from 3 votes

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This recipe is for a lightly dressed salad. If you want it to have more sauce, double the sauce ingredients.

No barbecue is complete without a pasta salad to go along with it.  This Simple Macaroni Salad is a crowd pleaser and takes just a few minutes to make!

Simple Macaroni Salad is a quick side dish recipe for summer BBQ and grilling parties like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Red onion, celery, and tomato are mixed with ditalini pasta in a creamy, tangy sauce. #pastasalad #macaronisalad #bbqsides

Why You Will Love This Recipe

When it comes to summer meals, a refreshing and delicious macaroni salad can be the star of any backyard barbecue, potluck, or picnic.

With its creamy texture, vibrant colors, and irresistible flavors, macaroni salad is a versatile dish that can please everyone’s taste buds.

This Simple Macaroni Salad has been a staple in my family when I was growing up.  Almost every barbecue or grilled meal had this as a side.  

The flavors are light and fresh, with some added crunch from the vegetables.  I do not always use tomatoes, but I will always include the onion and celery.

Ingredients

These are the ingredients you need for this easy pasta salad:

  • Ditalini Pasta – any small shape works well
  • Celery
  • Red Onion – soaking the onion after cutting, before using, will make it less sharp tasting
  • Tomatoes
  • Mayonnaise
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Parsley – I prefer fresh but fried will work
  • Dried Mustard
  • Sugar
  • Sour Cream – or plain Greek yogurt
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil

Instruction Overview

To make Simple Macaroni Salad, first cook the pasta until it is al dente (not too soft).  Drain and refrigerate until it is cold.

Then make the sauce by combining all of the other ingredients together.  The vinegar gives this salad a tang, so if you are not a fan either reduce the amount or skip it at first and then add a little by little until you reach your desired preference. 

Chill the sauce separately. 

When ready to serve, mix the sauce into the pasta. 

Simple Macaroni Salad is a quick side dish recipe for summer BBQ and grilling parties like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Red onion, celery, and tomato are mixed with ditalini pasta in a creamy, tangy sauce. #pastasalad #macaronisalad #bbqsides

Modifications and Substitutions

I am personally a fan of pasta and macaroni salads that are lightly dressed and not drowning in mayo.  If you like it goopy, simply increase the amount of sauce you make.  

Any small shaped pasta will do here, but I love to use ditalini as that is how I ate this growing up.  Ditalini looks like a small, short tube and I find that the shape is perfect for holding the sauce and easier to eat than larger shapes.

This recipe has a tang from the amount of vinegar. If you are not a vinegar fan, reduce to 1/2 Tablespoon or consider finding a different recipe that better suits what you are looking for.

Kim’s Tips

If you store the sauce already mixed into the pasta, the pasta will continue to absorb the moisture and it will be less creamy. I recommend chilling and storing the sauce and pasta separately until within two hours of serving to avoid this.

The key to a great pasta salad is NOT overcooking your pasta! It should not be mushy!

This salad has a tang to it from the vinegar. It is not sweet nor overly creamy.

FAQs

Does macaroni salad have all purpose cream?

No! You get the creamy sauce from other ingredients like mayonnaise and sour cream.

How do you fix bland macaroni salad?

The key here is adding seasoning, such as salt and black pepper. If it does not need salt but is still missing something, try adding a splash of lemon juice.

Do you rinse pasta when making macaroni salad?

For pasta salad, you can if you wish. Rinsing pasta will remove the excess starch that is on the outside which can help keep your pasta salad sauce from getting thick. But it is not required.

Simple Macaroni Salad is a quick side dish recipe for summer BBQ and grilling parties like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Red onion, celery, and tomato are mixed with ditalini pasta in a creamy, tangy sauce. #pastasalad #macaronisalad #bbqsides
Simple Macaroni Salad is a quick side dish recipe for summer BBQ and grilling parties like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Red onion, celery, and tomato are mixed with ditalini pasta in a creamy, tangy sauce. #pastasalad #macaronisalad #bbqsides

Simple Macaroni Salad

This recipe is for a lightly dressed salad. If you want it to have more sauce, double the sauce ingredients.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate Save Recipe
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: 30 Min or Less, BBQ, Summer, Vegetarian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Chilling Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 437kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a large pot of boiling water, cook the ditalini until al dente as per package directions. Drain the pasta and place in a large tupperware.
    2 cups ditalini pasta
  • Toss the pasta with the olive oil. Chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes.
    1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Finely dice the celery, onion, and tomato. Place the onion only in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit 5 minutes and then drain. (This will take some of the sharpness out of the raw onion).
    1/3 cup red onion, 1/3 cup celery, 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes
  • In a small bowl, combine the mayo, dry mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
    3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 4 Tablespoons sour cream
  • Take the pasta out of the refrigerator. Add the vegetables, sauce, and parsley. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill until needed.
    1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, black pepper

Notes

This macaroni salad has a little tang to it from the vinegar. If you are not a fan of a vinegar taste, reduce or omit the vinegar at first and then add a little at a time to taste preference.
The longer the sauce is mixed into the pasta, the more sauce it absorbs and drier it gets. I recommend not mixing the sauce with the pasta until within an hour or two of serving at most. They can be stored separately in the refrigerator until then to chill.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 437kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 388mg | Potassium: 182mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 190IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg

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By on June 2nd, 2016

About Kim

Kim has grown up with a passion for cooking good food! You can find her in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, making dog treats, and eating Italian food!

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28 thoughts on “Simple Macaroni Salad”

  1. I love macaroni salads for a BBQ. I made one last weekend. It is so much easier and less time consuming than potato salad. I love your addition of the tomatoes and the spices for your sauce.

    Reply
  2. Homemade pasta salad is so much better than the store bought version! This one looks just delicious – I love the little pastas, and I know my kids would love them too 🙂

    Reply
  3. I agree — too much mayo can ruin a pasta salad! Thanks for sharing one that is light on mayo and bigger on flavor! Love ditalini pasta, too 🙂

    Reply
  4. I haven’t even seen ditalini pasta before, but I can see how well it would work in this salad. On behalf of foodies everywhere, thank you for not drowning it in mayo!

    Reply
  5. So pretty! I am a macaroni salad fiend…I love the stuff! Can’t wait to try this recipe over the summer…perfect family BBQ food!! And I love that you didn’t not use the traditional elbow macaroni…you gave it a little elegant touch! Nice!

    ~ Alea | frugalnesting.com

    Reply
  6. This reminds me so much of the macaroni salad my grandma used to make! She even uses the same kind of pasta (which I didn’t know the name of until now). Awwwww now I’m feeling a wee sentimental. This looks delicious. I can’t wait to give this a go. And my favourite BBQ side dish would be THIS 🙂

    Reply
  7. This was so good! I love dressing when it includes sour cream and a little sugar. Simple and delicious. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    Reply

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