The Fix for Gluten-Free Macaroni Salad!

You might think that making macaroni salad gluten-free or Low-FODMAP is as simple as swapping out the wheat noodles for one of the many readily available rice, corn, or quinoa-based options out there? Alas, it’s not quite that simple, since the non-wheat pastas tend to be very “thirsty” and slurp up all the moisture from the delectable dressing while it sits in the fridge. Sure, it’s okay right after you make it, but give it a single night and you have some dry distant cousin of pasta salad.

In the past I’ve opted to add more dressing to the leftovers or warm up the pasta salad in the microwave (sprinkle a little water on it, like you would rice or any other noodles). It’s okay, but it’s not the same as tucking into leftover macaroni salad the day after the cookout. No where close.

So this past Memorial Day I decided to try something different, thinking back to my days at the plantation and making tea sandwiches.

When you make a tea sandwich, it’s customary to spread a bit of butter on the “inside” of the slices of bread. This prevents the bread from becoming soggy as it sits on the tea tray (or in the fridge if you’re making them in advance). So I figured that, instead of the scant amount of oil I might toss the cooked pasta with to prevent it from sticking, I’d add a generous pour or three of olive oil to the pasta in the collander and let it get good and slick before combining it with the rest of the ingredients. Maybe, just maybe, that coating of oil would act as just enough of a barrier to keep the macaroni salad dressing from disappearing?

I’m happy to report that it worked like a charm! And not just for a single day, but for an entire week! (I made a lot of salad. I always seem to over-prepare for holiday meals, even when it’s just the two of us.)

You can see how the cookout came together on this week’s View from the Countertop video:

Direct link for the feed readers: Let the Cookout Season Begin!

As for the recipe… I threw a lot of things together, namely several partial bags of different pastas in the pantry, but below is my best guess for proportions and procedure.

I could have just eaten the pasta salad and been perfectly happy...
I could have just eaten the pasta salad and been perfectly happy…

Gluten Free Macaroni Salad

About 16 servings

16 oz gluten-free pasta
2-3 bell peppers, diced*
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1-2 cups frozen green peas*
Olive oil
1/2 bunch green onions, greens sliced
3 celery ribs, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 hard boiled eggs, diced (optional)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 Tbsp horseradish-mustard
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, sprinkle in salt and add pasta, followed by peppers, carrots, and green peas. Cook until pasta is al dente (usually around 10 minutes). Drain pasta and vegetables and rinse with cold water to halt the cooking process and cool them down. Toss with a generous amount of olive oil, enough to evenly coat everything, and allow the excess to drain.

In a large bowl, combine the dressing ingredients (mayo through salt and pepper) and mix until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding more mustard and vinegar if you like a more tangy dressing or a bit more sugar if you prefer it just on the sweet side.

Add the pasta mixture and the rest of the vegetables (and the chopped eggs, if you’re using them) to the dressing and stir to combine. Check once again that the seasoning is correct before serving, chilled.

Keeps for one week, in the fridge, if it lasts that long.

*To make this lower in FODMAPs, avoid green bell peppers and limit or omit the green peas. The amount is definitely fine for maintenance-level, like I do, especially since the quantities per serving end up pretty small, but always use your best judgement and consider your own tolerance levels. 

It did keep for a week–I ate the last of it on Sunday afternoon, though I will say one of the pastas I used (my bet is on the corn variety over the brown rice ones) started to get pretty stiff on Friday. (I took a small container with me to work each day as my breakfast, purely for research’s sake, of course.) But the dressing didn’t get soaked up or dry out, so my mission was definitely accomplished in a very tasty manner.

What did the rest of our menu look like?

This week's menu!
This week’s menu!

Monday (Memorial Day): Grilled Sausages and Hot Dogs, Corn on the Cob, Macaroni Salad
It was all so goo, and we both over-prepared. Todd offered to pick up the sausages, etc. and he came home with 3 types of Johnsonville brats (Cheddar, Chili Cheese, and New Orleans/Andouille) along with a massive pack of all-beef franks. We grilled about half of them and put the rest in the freezer for another day. The only negative was that the beef hotdogs were really salty compared to everything else–maybe if I’d eaten mine on a bun it would have tempered it a bit, who knows?

Tuesday: Leftovers!
Monday’s mean was so good and so plentiful, and I was so tired by the time Todd got home from work, that we opted for a leftover night.

Wednesday: Hawaiian Chicken Thighs and Hawaiian Luau Rice
At some point last week we got to talking about the chicken legs from Todd’s birthday party and I decided to make them again. The marinade (from The Girl Who Ate Everything) is super-simple and then you just toss them on the grill until done. The rice was a recipe (from Bam’s Kitchen) I’d pinned while planning the party but opted not to make, and I’m kinda glad I didn’t. What with the ham and pineapple and coconut and macadamia nuts, you’d think this would be a fabulous side dish. Sadly, it was lackluster at best. It called for absolutely no salt (I guess the ham and chicken bullion were supposed to cover that base, but they fell far short) and needed a lot of doctoring. A couple days later I had some with one of the chicken thighs chopped up in it and added a dose of soy sauce to the bowl and that perked it right up. So be forewarned and try it with a little extra sauce.

Thursday: Roast Beef Wraps and Carrot Soup
A cooler take on the soup and sandwich dinner, both of these recipes came from The No-Cook, No-Bake Cookbook that I reviewed a couple years ago. The wraps were fairly straightforward (I might have added some cheese, if anything) but got a flavor boost from an Asian-inspired sauce while the cold carrot soup was a bit of a sweet and spicy surprise. Todd isn’t quite as much of a fan of the cold soups as I am, but with the temperature (and humidity) already soaring, I think there’s a good chance more of the no-cook recipes will be used this summer. I’m keeping it handy, at any rate.

Beef, chicken, and pork pan pizza with extra cheese. A worthy splurge, indeed!
Beef, chicken, and pork pan pizza with extra cheese. A worthy splurge, indeed!

Friday: Pizza
So sad that the day I’m home I cop out and we get pizza, right? I know, I know, but I was feeling kinda off all day, almost hungover even though it’d been several days since having any booze, and then the thunder started mid-afternoon and I realized the change in barometric pressure was wreaking havoc on my sinuses. Mystery solved! While we usually will opt for Domino’s, since they have a decent gluten-free crust and deliver, I really didn’t want it that night. I was craving the crispy, chewy, classic pan pizza from Pizza Hut so that’s what we got. Did I pay for it later? A little bit, but it was worth it.

Saturday: Zoodles with Meat Sauce and Goat Cheese
Friday was always meant to be a pizza night, I’d just been planning to make the zucchini-crust pizza that’s making the facebook rounds right now. Since I didn’t, though, I had these zucchini needing to be used, so zoodles it was. The goat cheese was also from that recipe, and if you haven’t melted a little goat cheese into your tomato sauce, please do. It’s so worth it and really amps up the flavor. I also made some quickie cheese toast using leftover hot dog buns.

Sunday: Cheese-Stuffed BBQ Meatloaf, Green Beans, Sweet Potatoes
Classic Sunday dinner of meatloaf and potatoes, courtesy of the freezer. I really do love this meatloaf with its layer of cheese in the center and barbecue sauce on top. This recipe is from The Virtuous Wife, though I sub rolled oats for the bread crumbs and don’t bother with the plastic wrap layer–I just put the frozen packet in the loaf pan to defrost and open up the top of the foil before baking. If I’m careful enough, the loaf pan stays clean!

And that was our week!

In addition to the macaroni salad video I linked above, I also put up a simple video about the Low-FODMAP diet and why I make some of the choices that I do. You can find it here: Low-Food-Wha?! on YouTube

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