Macaroni salad is a classic dish enjoyed during the summer season. It’s the quintessential item to serve beside watermelon, ice-cold beverages, and BBQ meats. I have to admit that I often did not enjoy eating macaroni salad at barbecues because I always found that it was covered in heaps of mayo and not much else.
With this macaroni salad recipe I used a lighter and fresher approach, but I did not rob it of its richness. The heartiness is provided by the addition of bacon and olives. The dressing is light—and in fact is more like a pasta salad dressing. This recipe was inspired by the well known Nicoise salad, a deliciously traditional salad with origins in France.
Start by boiling about 2 litres of water with a pinch of salt for the macaroni, adding about 1 Tbsp of canola oil so that your noodles do not stick together. Prepare a steamer basket for the washed green beans, adding only about 1-2 cups of water in the pot. While you are waiting for your water to boil, using a skillet or sauté pan, cook your bacon (see below for cooking instructions). Once your bacon is prepared, leave it aside on paper towel.
Throw the green beans in the steamer and blanch them for 2-3 minutes. Try not to overcook them—they should still be firm to the touch! In addition to preserving the beans’ texture and crunch, they retain more nutrients and are sweeter when they are gently cooked.
I decided to keep the ends on the beans and serve them whole. Keeping the ends on encourages people to interact with their plates and slow down their eating so they can enjoy the conversation while mindfully savouring their meals.
If, however, you prefer to chop up all your ingredients into bite-sized pieces, this is an option as well. Chop just before serving, if possible, so the texture stays intact until they are added to the dish. Chop up the remainder of the ingredients, radish and parsley.
At this point the water for your noodles must be boiling! Add the macaroni noodles and cook until al dente. Al dente translates in Italian literally to “to the tooth” (which means “firm to the bite”). The cook time to prepare al dente noodles varies per noodle size, type, and quantity prepared at once. For the macaroni noodles in this recipe, this takes about 7-9 minutes.
Once the noodles are done, drain them over a sink and put them under cold running water for about 30 seconds. We do this because the steam left in the boiled noodles will continue to cook the noodles unless they are chilled. Further, this is a cold pasta salad dish, so we want all the ingredients to be cool in temperature.
To make the dressing, combine in a bowl: red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper, and mustard seeds.
Pour the dressing over the pasta noodles and begin plating your dish cold, adding the crispy bacon and finely chopped parsley on the top.
If you would like to make this Nicoise-inspired salad more traditional, add tuna, egg and red potatoes. Enjoy!