Macaroni Salad with Ham and Cheese
Macaroni Salad with Ham and Cheese: The best easy classic macaroni salad recipe. With a tangy, lightly creamy dressing, it pairs with nearly any meal!
Macaroni Salad with Ham and Cheese
Summer is officially over at our house, as our girls are back to school today. Hatti’s a senior, taking classes at both the high school and a local community college. And Tessa’s a seventh grader, with volleyball starting up this week as well.
I’m not one of those parents who can’t wait to skedaddle their kids off to school each fall. Never have been. I like them too much. So it’s certainly bittersweet for me, wanting most of all to watch them grow and learn and thrive, while the momma heart strings are aching to just pull them on back.
I keep reminding myself to find all the ways to create and enjoy all the special moments. And food is a huge part of that for me. It’s one of my love languages, for sure. Pair that desire with a special family recipe, and it’s like the locking of two puzzle pieces.
My mom’s Macaroni Salad with Ham and Cheese has been a part of my life since I was a kid myself. This dish is nostalgic and fun and delicious, all in the same bite. And it fits in perfectly with all those casual gatherings, year-round. It’s about time I officially placed this macaroni salad recipe in these archives!
Classic Macaroni Salad
This is a classic macaroni salad. You might already have a recipe in your box that’s quite similar, in fact.
It seems that every family has their own special formula, but the basics are the same.
There’s pasta dressed with a simple creamy, tangy dressing. Plus ham, cheese, and some fresh crunchy nibbles.
And if you’re lucky, there’s peas.
Ahhhh, yes. I do love me some macaroni salad with peas!
How to Make Macaroni Salad
First, pick a pasta. Mom mostly uses small rings or small shells for this easy macaroni salad, so I often grab one of those. I used cavatappi this time because it’s one of our girls’ favorite noodles. I also like regular ‘ol elbow macaroni and the cuteness of ditalini.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the macaroni salad ingredients.
You’ll need to cube some ham and cheddar cheese. Dice up green bell pepper and red onion. Thinly slice a bit of celery, for some extra crunch factor. Add a big spoon of sweet pickle relish. And don’t forget the beloved green peas.
I like to use a large stainless steel bowl for mixing salads such as this. It gives me plenty of elbow room to fold all those glorious ingredients together, without spilling over the edge. And for a super casual meal, I serve salad straight from this bowl.
We received two large stainless steel bowls as wedding gifts – I use them all the time. Here’s a link to one that’s about the same size.
Creamy Macaroni Salad Dressing
The dressing for this pasta salad is sweet and tangy, consisting of mayonnaise (if you’re a Miracle Whip fan, use that – it’s what my mom uses), sweetened condensed milk, and white vinegar. It contrasts with the savory/salty ham and cheese quite delightfully.
Although the dressing is creamy, it’s not goopy or gloppy. It simply coats the salad in a lightly creamy way.
Macaroni salad is the chameleon of salads, fitting into nearly any meal. But I especially recommend it alongside most anything hot off the grill – think super casually with grilled burgers, hotdogs, and brats.
This salad also goes well with grilled fare such as:
- chicken thighs and drumsticks slathered in barbecue sauce
- a crispy-skinned whole beer can chicken
- pork chops (super easy, delicious recipe!)
- turkey tenderloin with brown sugar and whole grain mustard
- sriracha honey mustard beef kebabs.
And beyond the grill, I like to serve Mom’s macaroni salad with:
Like this recipe? Save it to Pinterest!
Here are a few more pasta salad recipes you might like:
- Farfalle Pasta Salad with Lemon and Basil from Foodness Gracious
- Greek Pasta Salad from skinnytaste
- Bacon Cheddar Ranch Chicken Pasta Salad from Buns in my Oven
Macaroni Salad with Ham and Cheese
This classic macaroni salad recipe comes from my mom's recipe box. Tossed with a tangy, lightly creamy dressing, it pairs with nearly any meal!
- 1 lb. pasta - I recommend any of these: small rings or small shells pasta (how my mom usually makes this salad), cavatappi as shown in my photos, elbow, or ditalini
- 2 c. cubed ham, 3/8" in size
- 2 c. cubed mild cheddar cheese
- 2 c. diced celery
- 2/3 c. diced green bell pepper
- 1/2 c. diced red onion
- 1/2 c. sweet pickle relish, drained
- 1 c. frozen peas
- 2 c. mayonnaise - if you like the sweeter Miracle Whip, use that
- 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 c. white vinegar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 T. chopped fresh parsley, optional
- In a medium sized pot, boil pasta in salted water until just barely al dente. Transfer pasta to a colander and rinse under cold water until chilled. Drain thoroughly.
- While pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the salad. To a large bowl (I like to use a large stainless steel bowl), add ham, cheese, celery, green pepper, onion, pickle relish, peas, optional parsley, and a few good cranks of freshly ground black pepper. Add prepared pasta. Fold gently to combine.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sweetened condensed milk, vinegar, and kosher salt. Pour dressing over salad ingredients in large bowl. Fold to incorporate. Chill for a couple hours. Fold again right before serving.
Variation: Use 2 cans (4 oz. each) small shrimp instead of the ham.
Salad can be prepared a couple days ahead of time. Store prepared salad ingredients separate from the dressing in the refrigerator, and then fold altogether right before serving.
from Mom's recipe box
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 259Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 966mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 14g
I made this for a Hot Summers Day… We all just loved it! Used half the can of SCM, I just knew the whole can sounded too sweet for us. And added a tad more Miracle whip. I will make this over & over again…… Thank You
So glad you liked this salad, Mickey! Thanks for coming back to let me know. :)
Really love this, next time I’ll use less sweetened condensed milk. I did add some diced dill slices, carrots and two hard boiled eggs. It is delicious and I feel like I’ve found the secret to all the yummy Mac salad recipes. Never heard of SCM being used, but it’s a game changer for sure.
This was fabulous! I followed your recipe almost exactly; the only change I made was that I only used about half of the dressing. My husband and two hungry teens gobbled this up. This will be a great dish to bring to a potluck or to serve on a summer day. Thank you for sharing your recipe!
So happy to hear this, thanks for coming back to let me know!
Making this for my churches luncheon on Sunday. Can’t wait to try it, it looks delicious!
So I made it for church on Sunday and had to share the recipe with everyone, they all loved it! Thank you for posting this recipe.
Wonderful! So glad you liked this salad. Thank you for sharing!
This is delicious! Made it on Friday and it has been my meal for this holiday weekend. Four days. The dressing will be used for again and again. Thank you.
AWESOME. So glad you liked this salad. Thanks for coming back to let me know!
I love a great pasta salad! This one is delicious!
Great to hear, Bird – thank you!
I really enjoyed this recipe. It was easy and the tang was just perfect. I did add carrots to make it a full meal. Thank you for sharing!
Awesome, so glad to hear this!
I figured out a long time ago that if you found cooking a chore your mixing bowls where probably to small and you needed bigger bowl. I have used the hell out of my set in the last 40 years
I think that’s so true! I DO find it a chore when I don’t have the right tools. And big bowls take the stress out of many recipes. Thanks, Becky!