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!
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.
These are the ingredients you need for this easy pasta salad:
- Ditalini Pasta – any small shape works well
- Red Onion – soaking the onion after cutting, before using, will make it less sharp tasting
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Parsley – I prefer fresh but fried will work
- Dried Mustard
- Sour Cream – or plain Greek yogurt
- Olive Oil
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.
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.
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.
No! You get the creamy sauce from other ingredients like mayonnaise and sour cream.
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.
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
- 2 cups ditalini pasta uncooked (or another small pasta shape of choice)
- 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup red onion finely diced
- 1/3 cup celery finely diced
- 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes finely diced (optional)
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 Tablespoons sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley minced (or 1/2 Tablespoon dried)
- black pepper
- 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