Planning for a potluck or picnic? Too busy with holiday shopping and decorating to make a complicated dinner? Meet the hero of the holidays: macaroni salad. This dish is easy to make, but—depending on the ingredients and the way it’s presented—can also be great for parties and get-togethers.
Here are some ways to prepare the perfect macaroni salad, from solutions to soggy noodles or watery dressing, to how to prevent spoilage.
Maraconi salad secret # 1: choose a good mayo
Mayonnaise is heart and soul of macaroni salad, adding creaminess and texture. Don’t scrimp, either—aside from ‘binding’ the flavors of the ingredients, it prevents macaroni from sticking together.
And here’s another secret: macaroni absorbs mayonnaise. That’s why flavor is so important. Season the mayonnaise with salt, pepper or any other spices in your recipe before you mix it with the noodles.
Macaroni salad secret # 2: preparing the best noodles
First of all, use quality pasta from durum wheat, since cheaper pastas that use low-grade flours will get sticky no matter what you do.
Then, add pasta to water that has reached a vigorous boil. Add a little at a time so the water temperature doesn’t drop—the water has to keep boiling. Then add lots of salt. Some people add oil to the water, but that doesn’t really help. Once it’s cooked, remove from water and drain immediately. Don’t wash it under cold water. You remove the starchy layer, which helps the mayonnaise flavors bind to each noodle.
Macaroni salad secret # 3: drain the noodles
Prepare the macaroni at least an hour before serving. This gives you time to drain the water, and allow any extra moisture to evaporate. Water ruins consistency and will also prevent the mayonnaise from adhering to the macaroni surface—you lose the creaminess and the flavor!
Macaroni salad secret # 4: storage
If kept in an airtight container, the macaroni salad can keep for about 2 to 3 days. If you have a large batch, divide and store in shallow containers so everything cools evenly. Use air-tight containers, so moisture and bacteria can’t penetrate. Also store the macaroni salad in the coldest part of the refrigerator: bottom shelf, at the back, far away from the door.
Note, however, that vegetables in your salad will lose color and crispness. It’s best to make fresh macaroni salad, enough for just one or two meals.
Macaroni salad secret # 5: estimating the servings
Consider how many people will be eating, if they’re adults or kids, and if other viands will be served. If you’re not sure, you can prepare extra ingredients (cut the carrots, drain the pineapples, cook and drain the macaroni) and then throw it all together with the mayonnaise when you realize you need more. Macaroni salad is so fast and easy to prepare that you can fix up another batch in no time!
Macaroni salad secret # 6: prevent spoilage and spills
If you’re bringing macaroni salad to a potluck or a party, you need to take extra steps to prevent spills and spoilage. Keep the salad in an air-tight container (just transfer it to a pretty bowl right before serving). You also want to avoid extra moisture, which makes the salad runny and can hasten spoilage. Since fresh fruits vegetables contain natural water, store pre-cut lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, pineapples, etc. in separate containers and mix into the salad right before serving.
Macaroni salad secret # 7: try different recipes
Your grandmother’s macaroni salad may be great, but be adventurous. There are hundreds of ways to prepare this dish. Some add mango and shrimp; others add fruit cocktail. Others like it a little hot and add a pinch of curry. Go ahead, try new macaroni salad recipes today!
Photo from globeadventure.blogspot.com