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Creamy Summer Macaroni Salad

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A Classic Macaroni Salad loaded with simple ingredients like celery, yellow pepper, sliced olives, ham, bacon, and cheese all in a delicious creamy mayo-based dressing! It’s a fantastic cold pasta salad perfect for all those summer Pot Lucks and BBQ’s!

Creamy Summer Pasta Salad in a serving bowl and on a plate.

Summertime and Pasta Salads go together! Kind of like me and air conditioning in the Summer! (Not even joking! You do not want to be near “Norine” with no refrigerated air and hot temps! It’s not pretty my friends!)

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Not only are Macaroni Salads wonderful side dishes for those amazing summer grilled main courses…they make a superb cold lunch, or dinner, on a hot day! They’re also great for growing kids looking for a quick snack!

You know I love pasta salads if you’ve ever stopped by my Nest before. My Tortellini Olive Salad is a summer favorite and my Seafood Pasta Salad is another!

I make this Old fashioned macaroni salad (with a few new twists) at the beginning of the week and store it in an air-tight container for an easy lunch. It will store for 5 days in the refrigerator and it comes together quickly. I recommend chilling it at least 4 hours, and it’s even better after 24 hours, when all those ingredients have a chance to get cozy!

How To Make The Perfect Creamy Macaroni Pasta Salad

First up is…the Pasta! Obviously you can’t have the BEST Macaroni Salad without having the Macaroni! In a large pot bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add 2 cups elbow macaroni. I love the type with the little ridges in the macaroni. It holds onto that creamy dressing a little better! (I’m all about creamy dressings!)

Cook the pasta until just past “al dente”. A little more tender than “al dente” but not over cooked and mushy! I find if you follow the directions on the package it will turn out perfect. Drain and rinse the pasta. Allow it to cool.

Once the macaroni is well drained, place the pasta in a large bowl, set aside to cool until ready to use.

TIP: Always make sure cooked pasta is completely cool before adding it to your salads. Warm pasta will wilt the vegetables and begin cooking the other ingredients in your salad.

Cooked Pasta in a bowl.

In a medium bowl add 1/2 cup finely chopped celery, 1 yellow bell pepper chopped, 1/2 a medium red onion finely chopped, 1 small can (3.8 ounces) sliced black olives (drained), and 1 cup ham diced.

Flavor is what this salad is about! Smokey flavors from the bacon and ham, and refreshing flavors from the fresh vegetables. It’s a party for your mouth!

Chopped pasta salad ingredients, ham, red onion, olives, yellow pepper, celery.

Add 1 cup medium cheddar cheese, cut into small bite size cubes, and 1/2 cup crumbled bacon.

Crumbled bacon and diced cheddar cheese in bowl with other salad ingredients.

How To Make Creamy Mayonnaise Dressing

In a medium bowl, or large measuring cup, Add 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt.

Red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar for mayo dressing in measuring cup.

Add 1 cup Mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon prepared spicy brown mustard. Using a small whisk, or spoon, stir until smooth and creamy. (Please note I said “Mayonnaise”…you can use Best Foods or Dukes…I don’t care, but keep your hands away from the Miracle Whip! Don’t ya dare go for that jar!)

Adding Mayonnaise and brown mustard to creamy salad dressing.

Creating the BEST Pasta Salad!

Add bowl of vegetable ingredients to the larger bowl with the cooled pasta.

Now that the Pasta is cool, you can add the other ingredients without running the risk of the cheese melting and the veggies wilting. (Like me in the summer…just one massive wilted mess! Can ya tell I’m not a fan of the heat?)

Adding salad ingredients to the macaroni.

Add the creamy dressing to the pasta salad ingredients. Aren’t the colors beautiful in this salad?

Adding creamy dressing to macaroni salad ingredients.

Stir until all the ingredients are well combined. Make sure you stir from the bottom to the top so that all the macaroni is incorporated into the salad and everything is covered in that delicious creamy mayonnaise dressing.

TIP: Don’t worry if the salad is a tad “wet”. The macaroni will absorb a lot of that moisture during chilling.

Cover the bowl and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight. This salad actually tastes better the longer it sits. It’s Ah-mazing!!!

Macaroni Pasta salad mixed in a bowl ready to chill.

Keep in mind that this salad can be customized to suit your tastes and those of your family. Not a fan of onion…or olives…leave them out. I promise I won’t be offended. I love when you get creative in the kitchen.

You can change the cheese flavor to pepper jack, or a sharp cheddar cheese. You can add raw broccoli, cucumbers, or hard boiled egg. So many options! Get busy and roll up your sleeves and have some fun!

Close up photo of Creamy Summer Macaroni Salad.

If you enjoyed this Easy Pasta Salad, You may also enjoy these other Summer Salad Recipes.

Creamy Summer Macaroni Salad in a large serving bowl and on a salad plate.

Thanks for stopping by. The printable recipe is below! Enjoy!

Happy Nesting!

Photo of Norine and her signature.
Yield: 6-8 servings

Creamy Summer Macaroni Salad

Creamy Summer Pasta Salad in a serving bowl and on a plate.

A Classic Macaroni Salad loaded with simple ingredients like celery, yellow pepper, sliced olives, ham, bacon, and cheese all in a delicious creamy mayo-based dressing! It's a fantastic cold pasta salad perfect for all those summer Pot Lucks and BBQ's!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 25 minutes


  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 8 cups water (to boil macaroni)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 (3.8 ounce) can sliced black olives
  • 1 cup diced smoked ham
  • 1/2 cup crumbled bacon bits
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 cup cubed medium cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard


1. Over medium-high heat, in a large pot, bring eight cups of water to a boil. Add 2 cups macaroni and cook till just past "al dente". Strain and rinse with cool water. Place cooked macaroni in a large bowl. Set aside to cool completely.

2. Place all your vegetables, olives, cheese, bacon and ham into a smaller bowl as you prep them. Do NOT mix them with warm pasta as it will cause them to wilt and begin to cook.

3. In a small bowl combine red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix until sugar and salt dissolve. Add 1 cup mayonnaise. Stir until smooth and creamy.

4. Add your vegetable bowl ingredients to your cooled pasta. Pour creamy dressing over the pasta and vegetables. Stir until well combined, making sure to stir from the bottom up so that all the pasta is covered in the dressing. Cover and chill 4-24 hours. Store in air tight container in refrigerator up to 5 days.

Nutrition Information:


8 servings

Serving Size:

3/4 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 364Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 708mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 11g

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