Our mom, Donna, made the best macaroni salad. Her legacy includes three daughters who still make her recipes, and this is one of my absolute favorites.
I was very young when my mom first taught me to make this family summer favorite. When my older brother tasted it that first time, he was a little skeptical that I could pull this off.
He said, “It tastes just like mom’s!” It was the absolutely the highest compliment I could have received.
Over the years, my sisters and I have prepared it over and again. Each time it appears on one of our tables, it’s like we’re all home again … which thought, as I type these words, actually brings tears to my eyes. This salad seems like a unique link to our past. For me, it just represents an important part of who I am, which is why I love to share it with people I love.
Lisa and I have discussed our preferences for which cut of macaroni is best to use. She feels that elbow macaroni (as shown in the photo, the one I usually use) absorbs too much of the mayonnaise-based dressing, so more dressing is needed. Her preference is to use the small, short “salad macaroni” and, come to think of it, that is the cut our mom usually used.
And by the way, just to mix up the summer repertoire, you can always substitute cubed cooked potatoes (use about 1 pound) for the macaroni if you’d like. Then you will have Donna’s Potato Salad recipe.
Equally delicious, I promise.
Donna’s Macaroni Salad
1 lb. salad or elbow macaroni, cooked per package directions, then chilled*
1 cup finely diced celery (about 3 stalks)
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp pickle relish, optional
About 1 cup mayonnaise (we prefer full-fat)
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paprika, for serving
Combine cooked/cooled macaroni, celery, onion, relish in large bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients in medium bowl; taste and adjust seasonings. Pour dressing over salad mix, combine gently and thoroughly. Sprinkle with paprika to serve, if desired. Yields about 6-8 side servings.
*Dressing will adhere best to cold macaroni.