I'm willing to bet that pretty much every family recipe collection will include a neatly written card dedicated to the proprietary pasta salad recipe. Everyone has their own unique blend, technique, trick, or special secret, and my family is no different.
The mac salad I remember as a kid is one my mom would make the night before and tote along in a huge Tupperware bowl to all the summer parties. People would flock to her colorful salad, and swoon for the recipe. Most times, she would quietly smile and say it was a secret, but mostly because I think she couldn't pinpoint the exact quantities of all her ingredients.
Well, I finally got her to crack, and found out that the secret's in the sauce: Mama Joyce has an unwavering and steadfast loyalty to Framingham's own Ken's Zesty Italian dressing, swearing "it gives the right flavor to the pasta." That, and she uses a beautiful blend of textures, flavors and fresh produce resulting in a crisply refreshing, and well rounded dish.
Well, since no summer cookout can commence without the staple mac salad right in its place on the table (usually right next to its potato companion), I pass to you my family's secret recipe.
Mom's Mac Salad
1 lb. Rotini or elbow macaroni (or similar size pasta)
1 cup Italian dressing (Mom's choice is Ken's Zesty Italian)
2 cucumbers, diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
10-12 radishes, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup sliced green olives (with pimento)
1 cup (two 4-oz. cans) solid white tuna, drained and roughly chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion salt
1/4 tsp. onion powder
Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
1. Cook pasta in salted, boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Drain and shock (run under cold or ice water). Pat dry.
2. Marinate the cooled cooked pasta in Italian dressing for two hours, up to overnight, in fridge.
3. Add all veggies, tuna, mayo and spices into a large mixing bowl. Mix well until all mayo and spices are fully incorporated. Chill for minimum of four hours before serving.
Jessica Roy is a private chef, specialty caterer and author of foodie blog, Shiso Fresh. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.