Pasta salads belong in America’s Hall of Fame. Think about it. Dare you not attend a cookout or summer picnic without some form of pasta salad taking center place on the table. Between Aunt Becky Mae, Cousin Clarice, Mama Sue Ellen or Granny Pearl, there will be at least one bowl of this favorite side dish showing up, if not two. America has had a taste for pasta salad ever since it starting showing up on cookbook pages in the early part of the 1900’s. Every region as well as every family has a favorite spin on their kind preferred whether made with a vinaigrette bath or a good soaking in a creamy mayo based dressing. Down here in the south, we prefer the creamy dressing. Surprised? I didn’t think so.
Now, there is one rule I was taught when making pasta salads, actually several, and I will share all with you. The most important is to overcompensate with seasoning and moisture, and slightly under cook the pasta. After the ‘set’ period, everything comes together and blends in a harmonious balance. While making a pasta salad, even the recipe today, it will appear to be salty and overly acidic but I promise, after melding together, it will dance on your palate and tingle your senses. It is important as you make a pasta salad to mix vegetables, spices and liquids with the binding ingredients first to well distribute everything in making a dressing of sort. Lastly, fold in the pasta and allow it to meld refrigerated. With the addition of the dressing, the salad will appear kinda soupy but here again on the thought of overdoing, the pasta will absorb much of the liquid and the consistency will be perfect for serving. If adding softer ingredients like cheese or eggs or ingredients that will soften over time like nuts (yes, I have seen this too and that’s just nuts), I like to do that the day of serving if not right before to avoid it from becoming mushy.
A week ago or so when sharing my recipe for our favorite baked beans with bacon onion jam, I mentioned this mac salad and now folks, here’s the recipe. Southern in spirit as it is actually a combination of recipes from my Momma, my Aunt Ida and one that I make from time to time. Enjoy!
Creamy Pasta Salad
made the old fashion way
about 8 servings
8 ounce Macaroni (elbow for the real southern way), but I used Conchigliette (small sea shells) and Ditalini (short tubular salad pasta)
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
2 thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup sweet salad cubes (sweet pickle relish)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup crumbled, small cubed or shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Cook pasta in rolling well salted boiling water just under the time on package or al dente. Drain into a colander, rinse briefly with cold water and allow to drain.
In a medium bowl, combine the celery, red and green bell peppers, onion, salad cubes, vinegar, seasoning salt and black pepper. Mix well.
Fold in the mayonnaise and the sour cream blending well. Taste and add additional salt if needed. Fold in the pasta, cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.
Fold in the cheese before serving or up to several hours if needed to transport is fine.