From Scratch: Cooked dressing, colorful veggies dress up macaroni salad


What makes a dish Pennsylvania Dutch? An all-encompassing answer would be that it is made from what is growing in the garden and walking in the barnyard.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw a young Amish boy eating a radish sandwich, just bread and butter with sliced radishes. Of course, any Dutch dish that is not strictly savory will be improved with a healthy dash of sugar.

My mother grew up in an Italian family, but when she got married, her cuisine became more hybrid to please my father's York County palate. Both her baked and boiled chicken pot pie would have won awards. My father also adapted. He began foraging local meadows looking for wild cardoons, which when breaded and fried, he enjoyed as much as my mother.

One of my favorite summertime meals as a child was fried chicken, sliced tomatoes sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, and a big bowl of macaroni salad. This was the Pennsylvania Dutch version made with a cooked dressing, not mayonnaise. My neighbor uses an almost identical recipe that she learned from her grandmother.

It's a little more work than mixing things from a jar, but the taste will bring back memories from your past. I think it's also more visually appealing than the commercial variety because of the colorful vegetable medley contrasting with the macaroni. If you want, you can serve it with sliced hard boiled eggs on top.

It tastes best chilled, so try to make it a couple of hours before serving. Enjoy and eat yourself full.

Pennsylvania Dutch Macaroni Salad

For the salad:

2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni

1 green pepper, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 hard boiled egg (optional)

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 egg

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook the macaroni according to package directions, then drain and set aside.

Prepare the dressing in the following manner. In a small bowl, beat together the egg, vinegar, sugar, salt and water. Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour until blended and smooth. Stirring constantly, add the egg mixture slowly and cook over a low flame until thickened, about 7 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss the cooked macaroni with the chopped vegetables and dressing. Chill for several hours. Garnish with sliced hard boiled egg if desired.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.