Tuesday 15 May 2012

Wakawoni Salad

Do you know a single kid who doesn’t like macaroni?  Me either. 

One of my favourite little boys used to call it “wakawoni” and the name has stuck at our house.  Any dish made with pasta elbows is now officially wakawoni to us.

My husband – who is, in actuality, just a really big kid – loves all things wakawoni.  He’d eat mac and cheese year round, but I want something at least a little lighter during the warm months.  This salad keeps us both happy. 

I know full well that no self respecting Italian would ever serve pasta cold, but we North Americans are a colouring-outside-the-lines kind of bunch when it comes to food.  We're not big rule followers. We’ll happily try just about any combination and presentation of foods, just to see if it will work.

My wakawoni salad is one of those “just to see if it will work” kind of dishes.  I made it up decades ago, as a young wife just learning the basics of housekeeping and home cookery.  One day, needing to use up all sorts of little bits from the fridge and not wanting to go to the grocery store to buy ingredients for supper, I took what I had on hand and put it together to make a salad. 

I’ve continued to make wakawoni salad every summer since, varying the vegetables each time I put it together.  The only constants are the bacon, the macaroni, and the mayonnaise.  It turns out well every single time.  If you’d like to make it too, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of uncooked macaroni (I was short on macaroni so I used a combination of macaroni and rotini.)
  • 1 pound of bacon
  • 3 to 4 cups of vegetables, either raw or cooked, cut into bite sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper

Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and cook it in a large pan or Dutch oven, over medium heat, until most of the fat renders out and the bacon crisps.  Scoop it out of the pot with a slotted spoon, draining as much fat as possible, and put it on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and cool.

Pour off as much fat as you can from the bacon cooking pan.  (I save it in a jar in the fridge and use it in other dishes.)  Leave the little brown bits in the bottom of the pan and add enough cold water to the pot to cook the pasta in. The brown bits from the bacon will help to flavour the pasta as it cooks.

Bring the water to a boil, add a generous amount of salt (it should taste like the ocean) and stir in the macaroni.  Let the pasta cook to al dente, drain it, and rinse it with cold water until its cooled to room temperature.  Leave it in the colander for a few minutes, giving it a gentle shake now and again, so that you can be sure as much water has drained off as possible.

Prepare your vegetables, cutting them into bite-sized pieces. 

In a large bowl, combine the pasta and vegetables, tossing them gently with your fingers to mix the veggies through the macaroni.  Mix in just enough mayonnaise to bind it. 

This salad is always best served very cold so, at this point, I refrigerate the macaroni and vegetable mixture for at least an hour.  Keep the bacon separate from the rest of the salad but refrigerate it too. 

Just before service, mix the bacon into the salad.  Plate it either on a large platter for family style service or on individual plates.  Serve immediately.

This post is linked to to Tasty Tuesday hosted by Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Beauty and Bedlam