Creamy Southern Pasta Salad

Old Fashion at it's best.

Pasta salads belong in America's Hall of Fame. Think about it. Dare you not attend a cookout or summer picnic without some form of pasta salad taking center place on the table. Between Aunt Becky Mae, Cousin Clarice, Mama Sue Ellen or Granny Pearl, there will be at least one bowl of this favorite side dish showing up, if not two. America has had a taste for pasta salad ever since it starting showing up on cookbook pages in the early part of the 1900's. Every region as well as every family has a favorite spin on their kind preferred whether made with a vinaigrette bath or a good soaking in a creamy mayo based dressing. Down here in the south, we prefer the creamy dressing. Surprised? I didn't think so.

Now, there is one rule I was taught when making pasta salads, several actually, and I will share all with you. The most important is to overcompensate with seasoning and moisture, and slightly under cook the pasta. After the 'set' period, everything comes together and blends in a harmonious balance. While making a pasta salad, even the recipe today, it will appear to be salty and overly acidic but I promise, after melding together, it will dance on your palate and tingle your senses. It is important as you make a pasta salad to mix vegetables, spices and liquids with the binding ingredients first to well distribute everything in making a dressing of sort. Lastly, fold in the pasta and allow it to meld refrigerated. With the addition of the dressing, the salad will appear kinda soupy but here again on the thought of overdoing, the pasta will absorb much of the liquid and the consistency will be perfect for serving. If adding softer ingredients like cheese or eggs or ingredients that will soften over time like nuts (yes, I have seen this too and that's just nuts), I like to do that the day of serving if not right before to avoid it from becoming mushy.

A week ago or so when sharing my recipe for our favorite baked beans with bacon onion jam, I mentioned this mac salad and now folks, here's the recipe. Southern in spirit as it is actually a combination of recipes from my Momma, my Aunt Ida and another one that I make from time to time. This one is, in my opinion, the best. Enjoy!

P.S. here is another salad recipe made with a creamy dressing - the kind we put on our tables every week!

Creamy Pasta Salad
the secret is in the Southern style dressing
about 8 servings

8 ounce Macaroni (elbow for the real southern way), but I used Conchigliette (small sea shells) and Ditalini (short tubular salad pasta)
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
2 thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup sweet salad cubes (sweet pickle relish)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup crumbled, small cubed or shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Cook pasta in rolling well salted boiling water just under the time on package or al dente. Drain into a colander, rinse briefly with cold water and allow to drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the celery, red and green bell peppers, onion, salad cubes, vinegar, seasoning salt and black pepper. Mix well.

Fold in the mayonnaise and the sour cream blending well. Taste and add additional salt if needed. Fold in the pasta, cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.

Fold in the cheese before serving or up to several hours if needed to transport is fine.

See also my Potato Salad with Deviled Egg Dressing for another creamy, cold salad made using the 'dressing' method.


  1. Drooling over the pasta. I love creamy pasta. Learned a lot about old fashioned way of cooking it. Excited to try this =)

  2. I have not had a creamy pasta salad in such a long time. A wonderful addition to summertime meals, and more great tips :)
    Hope you are having a great weekend!

  3. You are so right when you say to add extra moisture and don't overcook the pasta. I've made one too many pasta salads that had turned to mush. I like pasta salads for gatherings. It's an affordable contribution and everyone loves them.

  4. Drick, you are about as Southern as they come. Of course, in my eyes, that is a lovely thing. Totally agree about over-seasoning. Same goes for rice and potato dishes.

    Thanks for linking up.

  5. My sister loves pasta salad (me too) and makes it for every bbq we have. Sending this over to her fro our next bbq, I know it will be a hit!

  6. Great recipe! Letting it sit overnight definitely makes all the difference. I also like to add carrots. Thanks for sharing!!

  7. Hi Dick, found you throu pinterest. Love this amazing recipe and pinned it to a group board and was happy to find that it was repinned more than 50 times....thanks for sharing and keep the recipes coming.

  8. hey! i would really like to try this recipe! just one question! is it okay to substitute sour cream with fresh cream? does it have to be sour cream?


  9. @Sonikha - You know you can make your own sour cream by adding one teaspoon of lemon juice to every 5 fluid ounces of fresh table cream (single). I use sour cream to not only give the dressing a slight tang along with the vinegar but also as a thickener. That taste rides so well with the sweetness of the pickles. You can also use crema or crème fraîche depending on your locale.

  10. Just about to try your Southern pasta recipe over here in the north of Ireland!

  11. I just finished making this- it’s FANTASTIC!

    1. Hey Rachel, thanks so much for giving it a try - we think it's great too as I make it many times throughout the year. Stop back by sometime but until then, blessings to you and yours...

  12. I'm making this right now!!! At 7 months pregnant, I've been craving a creamy pasta salad like my grandma who was raised in South Carolina use to make. I'll let you know how it turns out, but I'm sure it'll be delicious! Thanks for sharing!

    -PJ, trapped in the house in VA during blizzard of '16!


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