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Help with Macaroni Salad, please!


Kim Shook
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I need some help with macaroni salad. Not fancy PASTA salad, just plain old American macaroni salad. The kind that I like has a creamy, mild dressing. The kind I always make (mayo-based) is clumpy and the elbows stick together. The kind I want to make pours out of a spoon individually, just barely clinging together. Mine thunks out of a serving spoon in one big 'splot!'. Does anyone know what I'm talking about and how to get what I want? Thanks!!

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Do you add anything like cider vinegar to the mayo, or do you just use straight mayo? I think the mayo needs to be thinned in order to get the texture you want. Also, if you serve it straight out of the fridge, it will probably be clumpier than if you let it sit for a bit.

ETA: Do you rinse your pasta? IIRC, when you serve pasta cold, it should be rinsed to reduce the surface starch.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Couple of things I do for my mac salad (though I can't recall seeing any mac salad that pours off a spoon - only way that would be possible would be with way too much dressing, imo).

The macaroni (and I like to use elbows for traditional mac salad) has to be cooked just to the point of doneness...any more, it's clumpy, too all dente, and not fun. As soon as it's done, it gets a good bath under cold running water to stop the cooking and rinse off the excess starch.

Next, I'll toss the mac with some finely diced sweet onion, celery, and minced parsley and dress the pasta with a pretty vinegary vinaigrette - no mayo yet. I like to use at least a 50-50 mix, sometimes even higher on the vinegar. Then, after making sure it tastes good (i.e. salt & pepper), I'll give it a light dressing of mayo - not too much, but just enough so that you know it's there. Sometimes, for a more Italian version of pasta salad, I'll leave the mayo out entirely.

And, as prasantrin said above, make sure it's removed from the fridge for about an hour before serving, otherwise it'll just stick together.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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The other thing which is kind of nice to smooth out the texture is to mix a little sour cream or yogurt with the mayo. You might still want to thin it out with a little cider vinegar and wisk it until it is more like creamy salad dressing texture.

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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I use Cook's Illustrated recipe for All American Macaroni Salad. Each piece of macaroni is individual. If it dried out, they have you add a touch of water to make it creamy again.

Its a simple recipe, but really good( no vinegar either)

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Thank you all for your help! I am rinsing, but just using straight mayo (with a little Ranch), so I think it is just too dry. I'll try some vinegar or a little sweet pickle juice. The recipe doesn't call for pickles, so I didn't think to use the juice like I usually do :wacko: !

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When my mom makes her potato salad, the "goop" she makes to bind it all together is the same that goes into her deviled eggs. She starts with Miracle Whip (I can hear the shocked gasps now :shock::raz: ), pours in a little milk to thin it down, then adds a touch of cider vinegar and plain old yellow mustard to taste. You don't want a runny texture but it shouldn't be as think as just plain mayo (or Miracle Whip, in this case).

It's a learn-as-you-go method and, eventually, you will find the right balance. The nice thing is that even if it isn't perfect, yet, the results will still be quite edible. :wink:

 

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Tim Oliver

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I think most macaroni salads will dry out because of the pasta absorbing about as much liquid as you'll give it and become mushy/sticky to boot.

I've noticed that the only way to have it the way I want is to make it fresh and eat it before it's refrigerated. That way it's almost soupy. The recipe I use is a version of Bert Greene's from "The Store Cookbook". It's not like the old fashioned, though--it's better.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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What kind of pasta are you using? I get the best results from Barilla elbows. My salad tends to be a bit clumpy, and after the refrigeration, I usually mix in more mayo. My friend swears by milk to restore creamyness, but to me it makes everything bland, and a bit flat. Also I use sour cream in mine, too. HTH!

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Ruthcooks got it right spot on. Pasta salads do tend to suck up moisture if done too far ahead of time. Even the seasoning need adjustment after an hour of being refridgerated.

And yes, thinning out the dressing helps. My acid preference is lemon and orange juice or just sour oranges. Really good for seafood type garnishes and goes geat with feta cheese.

Sweet pickles and some of its juice also adds another layer of flavour and taste. I look to hit every taste in my mouth, even the crunch aspect imporves any pasta salad.

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