Macaroni salad is a cool and refreshing beloved staple, and with this recipe I bring you a delightful mix of peas and crisp pancetta coupled with the bright flavors of lemon and thyme!
Macaroni Salad, a Scrumptious Fair Weather Friend
When I think of a spread fit for the warmer seasons, I simply cannot imagine it without a delicious macaroni salad. Don't we all just love to reach for a big creamy and cool spoonful?
Sometimes, however, macaroni salad can be a wee bit on the heavy side and quite rich. But, there's a simple and flavorful solution to that, and it involves a few super flavorful ingredients: zippy lemon, pretty green peas, fresh and fragrant thyme, and crisp pancetta.
What lemon offers is a wonderful tanginess, and when used in combination with an herb such as thyme in a creamy dressing base for the macaroni salad, it cuts through the richness and allows for a bit more “brightness” to come through.
Petite green peas offer a little something fresh and green under tooth, offering up a bit of extra texture and nice color.
But the special little unexpected gourmet twist? A sprinkling of crisp pancetta, which gives this particular macaroni salad recipe a slightly salty bite.
The results of this tasty combo of ingredients is a lighter, fresher and more flavorful macaroni salad to offer up!
How to Make Macaroni Salad
Preparing a delectable macaroni salad is as easy as adding all of the ingredients into your bowl and mixing together, then allowing the salad to absorb all of those delicious flavors while it chills in the fridge.
Here's a quick overview of how I prepare my macaroni salad:
- To begin, I cook my little ditalini pasta (my favorite kind of pasta for this recipe) according to package instructions; then, I drain and rinse the pasta under cold water.
- While my pasta is cooking, I prepare my creamy dressing by adding all of my ingredients to a food processor and processing until smooth and well blended (you could also whisk the ingredients).
- To assemble my macaroni salad, I add all of my ingredients to a large bowl, toss together, then turn out into a serving dish; I garnish, and keep the salad cold in the fridge until ready to serve.
This is bright and creamy macaroni salad is sure to be a crowd pleaser, and a bit of a scrumptious departure from the more traditional version! 😉
Tips & Tidbits for my Macaroni Salad:
- Ditalini for dainty pasta: I use a pasta called "ditalini" (Italian: "small thimbles"), and you should be able to find it in most grocery stores; however, if you can't, just substitute small elbow pasta.
- Crisping pancetta: If you can find pre-diced pancetta, then use that; otherwise, just finely dice the pancetta, then give it a crisp in a hot pan for a few minutes.
- Prep ahead of time: You can easily prepare the salad a day ahead, and keep it in the fridge—as a matter of fact, it'll take on even more flavor!
- Lighten things up even more: If you'd like to go a even lighter, or use less mayo, you can sub plain, Greek yogurt for half of the amount of mayo in the dressing.
- Food processor to make your process easier: Blending the dressing in the food processor is the quickest and easiest way to prep the dressing; but if you don't have one, no worries, just add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk until blended.
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 517 calories
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Macaroni Salad Ingredients:
• 12 oz salad-size macaroni pasta, cooked according to package instructions and cooled
• 1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
• 4 ounces diced and crisped pancetta
• 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, for garnish
• 3/4 cup mayo
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
• 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
• 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons agave
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
-To begin, cook your pasta according to package instructions; drain and rinse under cold water.
-While the pasta cooks, prepare your dressing: add all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, and process the mixture until thick and completely creamy; or, whisk all ingredients in a medium bowl until blended; keep cold.
-To assemble the macaroni salad: add the cooked and cooled macaroni to a large bowl, and add in the thawed petite peas and the diced, crisped pancetta; toss well with the dressing, then spoon into a serving bowl, and garnish with the thyme leaves; chill for an hour or two, and serve cold.
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2013, has been updated with even more love!