Don’t you often find mayo-based macaroni salad to be bland? The dressing causes the pasta to slip and slide and sometimes pool in the dish. Even with veggies added the salad never seems together; it’s like separate ingredients tossed together barely coated in dressing. It is for this reason that I have been indifferent to a standalone macaroni salad. However, all of that changed when I made the Hawaiian version; it’s a game changer for the way I make macaroni salad. I think that you will like it too.
Macaroni salad, though only a small part of the meal, is a key component of a typical “plate lunch” in Hawaii. A “plate lunch” consists of rice, a generous serving of a meat or fish and would not be complete without a scoop of macaroni salad. Think of it this way, you know how there is always the ubiquitous piece of lettuce, tomato and cucumber with cooked food that you buy? Well the macaroni salad is in the same vein, only much more substantial and enjoyable. Not only does the macaroni salad appear on the everyday lunch plate but also on weekends, holidays and any time there is feasting. What sets the Hawaiian macaroni salad apart from others is the addition of potatoes to the salad which gives it body and helps hold the dressing around the pasta. Starchy russet/Idaho potatoes are boiled, roughly mashed leaving little chucks for added texture, and mixed with the macaroni, vegetables and dressing. Don’t be misguided. This is not a macaroni and potato salad. There is more pasta than potatoes and the potatoes are there to play a key role – that of assisting the dressing to adhere to the pasta. And it is not only the potatoes that make this pasta salad stand out; the grated onions and vinegar which help make up the dressing bring good flavour and a welcome little tang to the salad.
I found this salad to be satisfying on its own. I made a large batch then put individual servings in containers. For my meals I had the salad with boiled eggs one day, canned tuna another, roast chicken, and pan-seared fish. On the side I had steamed broccoli, cauliflower and okra.
Try this salad this weekend and I am sure that it will become as go-to as your potato salad. Here are a few tips to note.
● Cook the pasta in salted boiling water – it the only way to properly season the pasta. The pasta should be cooked past the suggested time on the packet; remember you are not going to cook the pasta further in a sauce so it must be soft.
● Elbow or cavatappi (cork screw/twirl) shapes work well but other small cut pasta can also be used.
● The dressing ingredients are to be added to suit your taste.
● The vegetables can be added raw or you can par cook them lightly by blanching (briefly cooked in salted water and then plunged into ice cold water to stop the cooking).
● While any type of potatoes can be used, russet/Idaho potatoes work great for this salad because they are dry and starchy when cooked making it easier to absorb the dressing and adhere to the pasta.
● Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water.
● Coarsely mash the potatoes, do not mash them smooth as you would when making mashed potatoes. Having little pebble-like pieces of potatoes are very welcome.
● Mashed the potatoes while hot; mix together the salad when the main ingredients – pasta, potatoes and veggies are cool and at room temperature.
● You can personalize the salad to suit you – add sweet peppers, corn, fresh herbs
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
● 12 – 14 ounces elbow macaroni
● 3 medium russet/Idaho potatoes (about a pound)
● 1 heaped cup finely diced carrots
●1 heaped cup thinly sliced bora
● 1½ cups whole mayonnaise
● ¼ cup whole milk
● 1 – 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or to taste
● 2 tablespoons grated onion
● 1 heaped teaspoon brown or white sugar
Salt and black pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil then add salt to taste. Add pasta and cook until soft. Drain well and let cool to room temperature.
2. Scrub or peel potatoes; halve them and put them in pot with water and bring to a boil. Lightly salt the water when it comes to a boil; cook until the potatoes are fork tender, you want them soft but not falling apart. Mash coarsely while hot and set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. While the pasta and potatoes are cooling, make the dressing – mix together the mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, onion and sugar and set aside.
4. Mix together the pasta, vegetables and dressing then add the potatoes and mix gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
If you par-cooked the veggies, pat dry and cool completely before using.