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~ Southwestern-Style Macaroni, Bean & Corn Salad ~

IMG_3393Macaroni salad has always been a staple at our Fourth of July feast -- just call me a Yankee Doodle.  That said, depending on what I'm serving, I don't make it the same way every year.  My recipe for classic macaroni salad goes on the table when we're serving all-American hamburgers and hot dogs.  This year because Texican-style BBQ'd chicken and ribs (the ribs on Saturday evening and the chicken on Sunday afternoon) will be in the center of the table, my Southwestern-style macaroni, bean and corn salad will the star of the side-dishes on both days.

While easy to prepare, this is not just "this and that".  This salad is a well-balanced, thoughtful, combination of flavor & texture:

IMG_3390A bit about the combination of ingredients in this recipe:  Beans and sweet corn kernels, common to the Southwest, add great flavor, texture and color to this macaroni salad.  Briny olives and acidic tomatoes, plus aromatic red onion and cilantro add to all the Southwestern flavor one could possible ask for.  There's more.  The creamy dressing gets store-bought fresh salsa stirred into it, which in itself, is full of more flavor-packed ingredients (onion, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, tomato, lime juice, etc.). As for bell peppers, I don't add them because they tend to take over the subtly-blended taste of this salad. As for avocados, as much as I love them, I avoid the urge to add them, except, to say, if you want to add them, dice them and add them at the last minute and just to the individual servings.  Why?  In less than an hour they start to turn color, in a few hours they start to get mushy, and, longer than that, they muddle up the color and texture beyond recovery.

Simple to make.  Flavor-packed.  Best made a day ahead:

IMG_3368For the macaroni salad:

1  pound macaroni, your favorite shape (Note:  I chose to use nuvole/"clouds", which is a small, roundish, coiled pasta with plenty of grooves to hold the dressing.

1  15-ounce can black beans or red kidney beans, rinsed and well-drained (about 2 cups beans)

1  15-ounce sweet corn kernels, well-drained (about 2 cups cooked corn kernels)

1  2.25-ounce can sliced black olives, well-drained (about 1/2 cup)

1  10-ounce box grape tomatoes, sliced in half (a generous 1 cup)

1  cup small-diced red onion (while green onion may be substituted, it really doesn't have enough flavor to hold its own in this salad)

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves and some stems are ok

IMG_3353For the dressing:

1  cup store-bought fresh salsa

3/4  cup sour cream or Mexican crema

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1  tablespoons fresh lime juice, or, high-quality organic not-from-concentrate lime juice

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_3370~ Step 1. To cook, drain and properly dry macaroni, in an 8-quart stockpot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil.  Add 1  tablespoon sea salt. Add pasta and cook as package directs until al dente, usually 9-11 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Drain into colander and rinse under cold water to halt cooking process and remove the starch (which makes it gummy). Transfer to and spread pasta out on a baking pan lined with parchment.  Drain and "dry" (meaning free from moisture, not dried out), about 20-30 minutes.

IMG_3373 IMG_3373~ Step 2.  Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.  Add the beans, corn, olives, tomatoes, red onion and cilantro.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the vegetables into the macaroni.  Set aside while preparing dressing as directed in the next step.

IMG_3356 IMG_3356 IMG_3356 IMG_3356 IMG_3356~Step 3.  To prepare  dressing, using a slotted spoon measure 1 cup of salsa from the jar, allowing excess liquid to drain back.  Transfer cup of salsa to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain of excess liquid, 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, place and stir together the sour cream, mayo, lime juice, cumin and sea salt.  Add and stir in the drained salsa.

IMG_3379 IMG_3379~ Step 4.  Transfer all of the dressing to the large bowl containing the macaroni mixture.  Using the large rubber spatula, gently fold the dressing into the pasta mixture, until ingredients are completely enrobed in the creamy dressing.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours (6-8) or overnight -- overnight is best.

Perfect served w/barbecued chicken or any type of ribs: 

IMG_3417Southwestern-Style Macaroni & Black Bean Salad:  Recipe yields 12 cups/3 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot; large colander; baking pan; parchment; large rubber spatula; large slotted spoon; paper towels; plastic wrap

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d131f9da970cCook's Note: "Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and, called it macaroni."  If you've ever wondered why Yankee Doodle would name his feather macaroni, this post will explain.  Sans the folk who think Kraft Foods invented macaroni, food historians agree it had its humble beginning in the kitchen of Thomas Jefferson, who returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni press which he bought in Italy.  Thank-you Mr. Jefferson for introducing macaroni to America, more importantly, macaroni and cheese.  Try my ~ Fourth of July Yankee Doodle Dandy Macaroni Salad ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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