Macaroni salad

Photo: Ryan Benyi

Here's how to turn a box of macaroni into a crowd-pleasing dish.

Lisa Cericola

Got a box of macaroni in your pantry? Of course you do. Put it to good use in these four classic recipes.

Macaroni Salad

Now that spring is officially here, picnics and cookouts are back in season. And that means tasty and totable side dishes like macaroni salad. There are endless ways to turn a box of macaroni into a pasta salad—pick two to three vegetables, your favorite dressing try creamy ranch dressing, pesto, or a simple vinaigrette), and add cooked, cooled macaroni. Or try our Confetti Macaroni Salad, which has a tangy buttermilk dressing and crisp raw vegetables.

Tip: When making a cold pasta salad, make sure to rinse the cooked, hot macaroni noodles under cold water to cool them down. Rinsing the pasta stops the cooking process, which keeps the noodles from turning mushy. It also removes some starch from the noodles, which will prevent them from sticking together in the salad.

Macaroni and Cheese

This is the undisputed king of all macaroni dishes but like macaroni salad, there are are dozens and dozens of ways to make it. Our Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese combines extra sharp Cheddar cheese, a simple homemade white sauce, and a touch of ground red pepper, along with elbow macaroni.

Tip: Don’t overcook the macaroni if it is going into a baked pasta dish, like macaroni and cheese. Test the cooked noodles for doneness. They should still have a bit of bite and will finish cooking in the oven.

Beef and Macaroni

This homey, kid-pleasing dinner is perfect for busy nights when you don’t have much time to fuss in the kitchen—which is pretty much every weeknight. Combine ground beef with a can of diced tomatoes, some spices and simmer until done. Then stir in some hot cooked elbow macaroni and top portions with sour cream and sliced green onions.

Tip: Trying to cut back on red meat? The recipe's Savory Meat Base can be made with ground turkey or chicken as well.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Creamy, comforting tuna noodle casserole has been a dinnertime staple for generations—and for good reason. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to feed a crowd and can be adapted to suit your family’s tastes. Don’t like mushrooms? Swap them out for peas. Have Monterey Jack on hand, rather than Cheddar? That’s okay too. The key to making this casserole is to make the white sauce from scratch, rather than using canned soup. It will make the dish taste more creamy and rich without being overly salty. Our Fabulous Tuna Noodle Casserole calls for egg noodles, but you can swap them out for elbow macaroni noodles

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Tip: Be sure to drain and flake the canned tuna before adding it to the casserole. The excess water in the cans will make the sauce runny.