Cheddar Macaroni Salad

Cheddar Macaroni Salad


Fear Conquered: Macaroni Salad

"Thank you for the cheese," I murmur. I'm alone in the kitchen, cubing cheese for macaroni salad. And for a moment, the texture and color and flavor of the cheese is overwhelming. The sensation of slicing the cheese, the satisfying thunk of the knife as it passes through and the privilege to be the one chunking that cheese. It's all so overwhelming. "Thank you," I whisper.

10 Ounces Extra Sharp Yellow Cheddar, Cubed

I'm alone in the apartment, like most days. The sky is partly cloudy, but there's still enough sun to snap photos with natural light. As I finish cubing the cheese and glance out through the front windows, I half-smile at the bright white sky with the little blue lakes peeking through. "Thank you," I whisper. For a moment, staring out at that marbled sky, I'm overwhelmed by the generous timing of the light. At the privilege to be the one holding the camera and snapping photos.

I think about all the times I've made the salad, all those hours in the kitchen. All the cheddar cheese I've chopped, all the moments with just enough light at just the right time to capture just the right photos. All those days, all that food, all that sunlight. And I'm overcome by it all. I half-laugh, half-weep. "Thank you," I manage.

Hawaii Sunset

Not just for giving me what I need but for giving me so much more. Not just for tasks, but for my talents. Not just for work, but for the opportunity to serve. And not just for making macaroni salad, but for the privilege of sharing macaroni salad. I know it sounds silly, but when everything is gift, then everything is worthy of thanks. And when everything can be taken away without notice, every moment is gift.

Are you sick of all this emotional thankfulness? Is it all a bit smothering? A bit much?

I get it - it is a bit much. Because why should making a salad be significant? Why should sunlight from the Earth's star be meaningful? Why should cheese - a humble mold - be reason for getting choked up? Just get to the food already!

Cheddar Macaroni Salad Overhead

Yet a salad to me is significant. A whole array of gifts had to come together to make this one recipe possible - inspiration, overcoming fear of failure, food, time, knowledge, sunlight, skills, taste-testers and more. And the perfect timing of sunlight through the clouds - which I cannot control or influence - makes every one of these photos possible. And this humble mold called cheese is the very lynchpin on which this whole salad hangs.

So when I think about it, the success of this simple salad is more than enough to make me whisper, over and over. "Thank you."


Photo Tutorial

1 Gallon Water in Large Stock Pot
Bring a large pot of water to the boil; after the water reaches the boil, salt the water generously.

Barilla Plus Elbow Macaroni
Add a 14.5 ounce box of dry macaroni pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the box instructions. I recommend Barilla Pasta PLUS for better flavor, texture and nutrition.

Cooked and Drained Pasta
Drain the pasta and immediately cool under cold water. After pasta is cool, drain and set aside.

2 Large Celery Stalks
While the pasta cooks, prepare the remaining salad ingredients. Finely dice 2 large celery stalks.

Finely Diced Celery

2 Medium Carrots
Finely dice 2 medium carrots.

Finely Diced Carrots

1/2 of Yellow Onion
Finely dice half of a medium yellow onion.

Finely Diced Yellow Onion

Red Bell Pepper
Stem and seed a red bell pepper.

Finely Diced Red Bell Pepper
Finely dice the pepper.

6 Hard Boiled Eggs with Egg Slicer
Chop 6 large hard boiled eggs. See my technique and tips for preparing the eggs.

10 Ounces Extra Sharp Yellow Cheddar, Cubed
Cube 10 ounces of extra sharp yellow cheddar cheese. I prefer a larger cheese cube.

Capers for Sauce
Add 4 Tablespoons of drained capers to the salad.

Macaroni Salad Ingredients Combined in Large Bowl
In a large bowl, combine the prepared ingredients with the cooled and drained pasta.

Fresh Dill
For the dressing, mince 2 Tablespoons of fresh dill weed.

Homemade Mayonnaise
Add 1 cup of homemade mayonnaise.

Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard
Add 4 teaspoons of dijon mustard (I recommend Grey Poupon).

Prepared Yellow Mustard
Add 1 Tablespoon of prepared yellow mustard.

Red Chile Pepper Paste
Add 4 teaspoons of chile pepper paste.

Macaroni Salad Dressing Ingredients Added to Salad
Add the dressing ingredients to the salad and season with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Gently mix everything together to evenly coat all of the ingredients.

Macaroni Salad Ready for Chilling
Cover the salad with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Cheddar Macaroni Salad
For the best flavor, serve chilled.


Cheddar Macaroni Salad

    by Javelin Warrior
     Prep Time: 1 hr
     Cook Time: 20 min

Ingredients (serves 10)
    • 14.5 ounce box macaroni pasta (Barilla Plus)
    • 6 large hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
    • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
    • 2 large stalks of celery, finely diced
    • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
    • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
    • 10 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
    • 4 Tablespoons capers, drained
    • 1 cup homemade mayonnaise
    • 4 teaspoons dijon mustard
    • 1 Tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
    • 4 teaspoons red chile paste
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh dill
    1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water according to the pasta cooking directions. Drain and immediately cool the pasta under cold water; set aside
    2. Prepare the remaining salad ingredients and combine in a large bowl with the drained and cooled pasta
    3. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad; gently mix the dressing into the salad to evenly coat all the ingredients
    4. For best flavor, cover the salad with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours; serve chilled
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    Hungry for Tips?
    • Homemade Mayonnaise: There are three ways to improve almost any salad - cheese, capers and homemade mayonnaise. And the greatest of these is homemade mayonnaise. So if you're serious about making a tastier salad, make your own mayonnaise. Then worry about everything else.

      Homemade Mayonnaise in Food Processor
    • Red Chile Paste: I recently discovered this amazing ingredient and I love the subtle spicy heat it brings to this salad. There's heat but no burn - and I like the flavor better than chile powder or cracked black pepper. So I strongly recommend using chile paste. But if you cannot find the paste (or if you just don't want to use it), add a pinch or two of chile powder instead. It's not the same, but in a pinch...

      Red Chile Pepper Paste
    • Barilla Pasta PLUS: This is NOT a sponsored post and I've received nothing for advocating this pasta. I simply love the texture, shape, flavor and nutrition of this particular brand. So if you can find Barilla Pasta PLUS macaroni, I highly recommend it. Otherwise, the regular Barilla macaroni works well. The texture and shape of the macaroni really helps the dressing cling to the pasta.

      Barilla Plus Elbow Macaroni
    • Capers: Capers add a unique briny sharpness to this salad that is both subtle yet clearly missed when the capers are left out. So unless you're prejudiced against capers, add them to the salad. If you don't add the capers, you will need to add an extra pinch or two of kosher salt to compensate.

      Capers for Sauce
    • Cheddar: I love cheese and I will attempt to add it to almost any salad I make. And macaroni salad is no exception. However, I first got this idea years ago when I worked at Giant Eagle in the deli department. They sold this tasty macaroni salad with chunks of cheddar cheese - and the cheddar cheese MADE that salad. As good as it was at the time, mine's better. It doesn't come with an odd chemical aftertaste.

      10 Ounces Extra Sharp Yellow Cheddar, Cubed

    Scan to view recipe on your mobile device


    1. I love the look of this, the macaroni and all those vegetables and everything is wonderful with cheese. Wonderful pictures and tutorial :) thanks for sharing

    2. I agree with you, Petra - everything is delicious with cheese :) I think that's one of my primary reasons for making this salad... Thank you for the kind words and I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe...

    3. I've always been a huge fan of Macaroni Salad, Mark but when you post such a lovely and thoughtful post, it just makes realize how thankful we all should be and I love it all the more!

      Thank you so much for sharing your spirit and salad with us today...

    4. Thanks so much for the kind words, Louise - and macaroni salad is always one of my favorite summertime sides. There's something so comforting about the pasta coated in the mayonnaise dressing, chilled ice cold... Anyway, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post :)

    5. Hi JW,

      Sorry that I must apologize that I have not visit your blog for the past months... Your blog has changed so much. You have put in so much effort doing a pictorial for most of your delicious food and share lots of valuable tips with everyone. Great stuff!!!


    6. An unusual (in my opinion) but totally intriguing take on macaroni salad, featuring 'humble mold'. Macaroni salad is not something common here in the UK, but I remember it fondly from church picnics of my Florida youth... I do a lot of thanking as well. With that view that you have, I would be grateful too. And yes, homemade mayo is the only way to go, especially with a special salad. Bookmarking this, Mark :D

    7. Looks pretty fine to me!! Love the addition of eggs & capers and dill and chilli sauce in the dressing. A wonderfully original take Mark. And you remind me to be thankful more often too...i love that it's the little things that make you so emotional xx

    8. Bintu @ Recipes From A PantryAugust 15, 2013 at 10:23 AM

      Al I want to do is say yummmmmm, yummmmmmm, yummmmmmmmmmm. Looks fab and slighltly spicy dressing would go very well. Such lovely pics as well.

    9. Hi Zoe, it's nice to hear from you again and hope things have been going well... Thanks for the kind words and I'm so glad you enjoyed!

    10. I agree, it's definitely a non-traditional macaroni salad ;) There's a bit more mustard than many and the capers and chile paste are unique for sure. I'm glad you enjoyed and I'm just happy to have the recipe complete. It seems like we'v been eating a LOT of macaroni salad lately :/

    11. Thank you for the kind words as always, Anneli - I'm glad you enjoyed this take on the traditional. And most of the time I'm not quite so emotional about little things. But when I take the time to remember it's not really all mine anyway...well...this is what happens :)

    12. I'm so glad you enjoyed, Bintu! Thank you for the kind words and I do highly recommend the chile paste - it adds just a little kick...

    13. Who doesn't crave macaroni salad from time to time? We often have them during the summer. Haven't made a cheddar one before - I should try that. I've seen Barilla Plus in the store (right next to the regular Barilla, which is my standard pasta). I should give that a try sometime. Good stuff - thanks.

    14. I think the Plus version of Barilla's pasta takes pretty darn close to the regular and is whole class to itself when compared to other "whole grain" or "whole wheat" pastas... And I don't think I could enjoy macaroni salad nearly as much if it didn't have cheddar. But then, I'm a cheese nut so...

    15. What a great looking macaroni salad! You know how I love the addition of the chile pepper!

    16. I figured you'd like the chile pepper paste :) Thanks for the kind words, MJ...


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