As I was tidying up my recipe file, I came upon a 70-ish recipe for Tuna Noodle Salad. It originated at Clementine’s, an upscale cafe in LA. I found it reprinted in the NYT, here.
I realized it was almost identical to the one I’ve made for years. I smiled recalling that friends and neighbors always referred to it as “John’s Wedding Salad,” because it was served at a wedding many of us attended. The marriage didn’t last, but the salad has remained a party favorite of those who enjoyed it that day.
Oodles of Noodles
Adding Your Own Touch
There are some small differences in the two recipes. The NYT uses cornichons and the wedding salad uses sweet pickles. They also throw in a bit of chowchow, which would certainly do no harm.
The NYT caps off their version of the salad with a handful of cheese chunks.
Room for Improvement
When making a macaroni salad, most of us toss together cooked noodles, mayo, and seasonings. What more could there be to success? But the cooks at America’s Test Kitchen are always trying to improve on our favorite dishes.
Their persistent testers found that just a few, easy “tricks” can enhance the taste and consistency of traditional macaroni salad (with or without the tuna.)
Advice from the ATK Pros
- Instead of draining the cooked noodles completely, leave a little dampness. The macaroni will absorb the extra water and make the consistency perfect. If the salad dries out after sitting too long, add a bit more water rather than more mayo.
- In addition to the onion, celery, parsley, Dijon mustard, cayenne and lemon juice, testers suggested a bit of garlic powder. Real garlic, they said, was too harsh.
- The testers also found that tossing the pasta with seasonings before adding the mayo made for a fresher, brighter salad.
- By all means, use real mayonnaise—I prefer Duke’s. Surprisingly, ATK testers found the reduced fat mayo was “not bad.” But avoid the non-fat salad dressings, that tend to have an overly-sweet taste.
- The test panel’s most highly recommended elbow noodle was Barilla, but not Barilla Plus, the multi-grain alternative that tastes like it’s “fortified with sawdust.”
A Tip Top Tuna Noodle Salad
Using these tips, you can bring a whole new dimension to this old, picnic favorite. For a dressy macaroni dish, I prefer my old Tuna Noodle Salad, (aka “John’s Wedding Salad”), enhanced by ATK’s helpful hints.
The recipe makes a huge bowl—enough to feed twelve. That is, as long as you don’t open the refrigerator door and nibble on the noodles too often.