Ring Macaroni with Tuna Salad

July 9, 2015
Ring Macaroni with Tuna Salad - Originating as a back-of-the-box recipe from the '60s, this salad is sweet yet tangy, a confetti of fun colors and textures

Behold the greatest collection

of sugar cookie recipes ..

Vintage Recipes 1-600x

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

(This post may contain affiliate links)

handwritten pieces of paper that .. over the years I'd tucked into the pages of some of my family's most loved cookbooks.

Folded carefully .. they marked my obvious attempts at capturing (in the barest of forms) .. a recipe someone had given me to try .. one I didn't want to forget .. or perhaps was planning to pass along to someone else to decipher.

Memories from the years I was learning to bake .. unearthed this week during my unsuccessful attempt to locate the original recipe for a family favorite ..

Ring Macaroni with Tuna salad

These cookbooks originating .. not from Betty Crocker .. or The Joy of Cooking .. but instead from the some of most trusted recipe sources one will ever find ..

church ladies

The recipe we sought didn't originate with any church ladies .. instead they were so much more.

Their authors included much-loved family friends .. relatives .. and neighbors ..  who also gathered to together every Sunday in the small country churches of Northwest Iowa .. where we lived when I was a kid .. growing up on our family's farm

Ring Macaroni with Tuna Salad - Originating as a back-of-the-box recipe from the '60s, this salad is sweet yet tangy, a confetti of fun colors and textures

“I could have sworn it was in the blue book .. but maybe it was the green.  The yellow covered one is at your house .. right?”

My Mom and I thumbed through the cookbooks the weekend .. their pages stained with butter and sugar .. favorite recipes circled .. and notes made in their ring-bound exteriors.  I couldn't help but smile to remember such things as play doh .. and minced meat pie.

Only a few months have passed since my Father brought me an old accordion envelope .. stuffed full of recipes from my Grandfather.  I love them .. man food if there ever was .. Spam sandwiches .. and egg pancakes

I remember my Mother's recipes from long ago .. which were only a wee bit neater .. and stored in a larger notebook.  Brimming full .. mind you .. but one could find a semblance of order if you paid attention

Thinking back to both of my Grandmothers .. they really didn't seem to collect many recipes .. at least when it came to daily cooking.  I can't remember either of them referring to a book when making soups or roasts .. for example.  Whatever for?  Soup was always made with left-overs .. and they knew all of the standard ingredients by heart

One thing is certain .. my family .. it seems .. has carried a sweet tooth with it for many generations.  Every collection includes yellowing scraps of newspaper printed with recipes for things like cakes made with mayo .. cookies that starred Crisco or Lard.. or jiggly jello-filled ..

dessert salads

Vintage Recipes 5-600x

Photo Credit: BeforeItsNews.com

To wander down this memory lane splattered with flour and bacon grease .. I'm struck too by how the language of recipes has changed .. even in the short years spanned by these family .. or church cookbook collections.

Everyone .. it seems .. understood the language of the kitchen.  Some of the recipes are written with little more than an ingredient list and a couple of notes.   I smile to read .. “Kill and clean two pretty decent-sized chickens”

(ps:  I wouldn't have done well)

Many of the women whose recipes live on in these cookbooks have long-since died .. ahead of a world filled with arugula .. sun-dried tomatoes .. and truffle oil.  Yet .. I have to believe they were truly .. light-years ahead of the curve.

They lived like they ate .. seasonally and organically .. not because it was trendy .. or they worried about climate change .. or felt dissatisfied or disillusioned with their options at the “local” grocery (often 20 -30 minutes away!) 

Instead .. many grew the vast majority of their own vegetables .. canning was done in late summer or early fall .. and they wouldn't have dreamt of such things as store-bought jam.  The meat that stocked their freezers more than likely came from their own pigs and cows .. many of which had been nick-named by their children

Ring Macaroni with Tuna Salad - Originating as a back-of-the-box recipe from the '60s, this salad is sweet yet tangy, a confetti of fun colors and textures

As I've worked at trying to recreate some of these dishes over the years .. as much as I long for a taste of the past .. admittedly I've been heavily influenced by the present.  The mushroom casserole I loved so much as a kid?  It tastes a bit bland to me now

More than once I've asked myself .. “Does every dish really need a little something extra?”  I've found myself adding garlic .. onions .. a splash of fresh lemon juice .. or sprigs of fresh herbs to bring the flavors in line with the palate I have now

The dilemma?

Should the recipes be presented as I think they were originally made .. without any changes?  Or should they be adapted to my more “modern” palate?  I have to believe the church ladies would approve of extra garlic .. or an additional herb or three?

Certainly they made cakes with mayo .. but is that helpful or interesting .. or more just a sign of how it was done back then?  And really .. just what am I to do with all of the Campbell's cream of soup-based casseroles?  They're delicious ..

but still

Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church .. Gruver, Iowa

Photo Credit: IAGenWebProject.com – Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church .. Gruver, Iowa (The country church I grew up in)

When I wonder all of this .. I think of this recipe .. and the spirit of my Grandmas and the church ladies of the past .. who would never have been a slave to the four corners of a recipe card.  If presented with my dilemma I'm pretty sure what they'd say

“Sweetie .. why don't you head outside to play?”

Then they'd quietly finish dinner the way they'd always cooked.  A bit of this .. a bit that .. a fistful of peas from the garden .. and what the heck .. why not just top it with some Western dressing for ..

good measure

This salad recipe has been a family staple for as long as I can remember .. and it's all the things a good macaroni salad should be

It isn't gloppy .. overly vinegary .. or mostly macaroni.  Instead it's creamy but still light .. with a flavor that's sweet yet tangy .. not to mention it's a confetti of fun colors and textures .. from the add-ins.

An online search suggests it may have originated as a back-of-the-box recipe on Creamette pasta rings .. as far back as the 1960's .. though I've yet to find one that's exactly the same

By all means make it your own .. play around with your own veggie combos.  Tuna is the staple .. though wild caught salmon is a wonderful substitute.

Note also .. the pasta will absorb some of the dressing as it sits .. so you may need to add just a bit more the next day



( ** Note from Ali:  This post originally appeared on July 9, 2015 .. back when The Veggies was just getting started.  I originally set out to update the photos .. but decided an updated post was in order for those who maybe haven't ventured through the archives)


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4.8 from 9 reviews
Ring Macaroni with Tuna Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 10 Servings
  • 1 box (7 oz) small pasta rings
  • 2 cans tuna (** I've used wild salmon in olive oil as well)
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 package (8 oz) Colby jack cheese cubes, halved or quartered depending on the size you'd like
  • ½ red pepper, chopped (** optional)
  • ½ green pepper, chopped (** optional)
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • Western dressing .. to taste
  1. Prepare the ring noodles according to the package directions. Drain, rinse, and add to a medium-sized bowl
  2. Add the chopped onion, celery, tuna, peas, peppers (if using), and garlic powder.
  3. Mix to combine
  4. Add the Western dressing and thoroughly moisten.
  5. Store in the refrigerator
Nutritional Data by %
% Protein: 26
% Carbs: 30
% Fat: 40
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/10 Total Recipe Calories: 222 Fat: 10.4 Carbohydrates: 17.1 Sugar: 2.65 Protein: 14.81

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  • Reply Marla Meridith June 22, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Loving this pasta salad!

    • Reply sexyveggie June 23, 2016 at 11:30 pm

      Hi Marla

      Thank-you so much! 🙂


  • Reply Elizabeth O. February 17, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Family recipes are amazing. It’s nice that you have such a collection at home. I have yet to combine everything into one lovely book for the kids to check on when they miss certain recipes from their childhood. I think this tuna salad is really nice in the summer!

  • Reply Stephanie Jeannot July 6, 2017 at 3:03 am

    That ring macaroni is too cute. I never seen them in that shape before. My nephew would look at these and love it. Yummy sounding recipe. That is up my alley. I love concoctions like that. Making me hungry,

  • Reply robin rue July 6, 2017 at 4:20 am

    That sounds like such a yummy cookout side dish. Definitely better than my boring old macaroni salad.

  • Reply Christy Maurer July 6, 2017 at 7:20 am

    I have a lot of old recipes that belonged to my grandmas too. I love making things that they made and thinking about times when they made the recipe. And church cookbooks are almost always the best ones!

  • Reply Katie Kinsley July 6, 2017 at 7:42 am

    I don’t feel like I could stop myself from adding in a little something to every recipe. I love things a little spicier, so here I am adding some chili flakes to otherwise dull chicken.

  • Reply Sarah Honey July 6, 2017 at 7:52 am

    Recipes that are passed down through the family are the best. They bring back sweet memories each time you eat them. Thanks for sharing your families Ring Macaroni with Tuna Salad with us.

  • Reply Jeanette July 6, 2017 at 8:44 am

    We have quite a few family recipes that I like to use over and over again. They have grease from butter on them and just a lot of love on those pages. It makes me feel closer to my family every time I make them.

  • Reply Chelsea Elizabeth July 6, 2017 at 9:48 am

    I’m guilty of always adding something extra! Especially garlic. I absolutely love garlic and eat as much of it as possible! And cheese, a sprinkle of cheese is always a good sign

  • Reply Debra Hawkins July 6, 2017 at 11:44 am

    I love my handwritten recipes from my mom. There is something magical about a recipe when it was hand written with love!

  • Reply Jenn July 6, 2017 at 11:55 am

    First of all, this recipe looks and sounds great. I bet my family would really enjoy it. Also, I have to share with you that I found my great grandmother’s recipe cards. She was 99 when she dies, and my grandmother was 101. I have no idea how old the recipes are, but the cards are made of some thick paper and some have faded over the years. I love to hold them and think about my family history and how many times each have probably been made over the years.

  • Reply Heather July 6, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    I wish I could find family recipes from my grandmother who passed a few years ago. I think they’ve been lost. She used to jar pickles and I remember loving the way they tasted. Lost recipes….probably in a box in a basement somewhere.

  • Reply Sarah Bailey July 6, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    There is something wonderful about being able to find a recipe from the past, or learning to back something that has been handed down via the family.

    I absolutely love the sound of the ring macaroni and tuna salad. Yum.

  • Reply five little doves July 6, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    I love using an old family recipe, I have a great stew that my Nan passed on to me and every time I eat it I think of her. I hope to teach my children to make it the same. This looks great, I’ve never tried ring macaroni!

  • Reply Amber Myers July 6, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    I always add garlic to things. I just love it. Man, it occurs to me that I don’t have a lot of recipes to pass down. I’m all about simple. I would make this though! It looks and sounds like something everyone in my family would enjoy.

  • Reply Censie Sawyer July 6, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    How special to look through the recipe book. I love looking through our family recipe books. This recipe looks so good. Both of my kids have found a love for tuna salad recently. Wondering if they would enjoy this too?

  • Reply Jade Braham July 6, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Another great post! I love the idea of handwritten pieces of paper that have been tucked into cooking book pages with recipes on being carried down through the generations! To me it’s like you’re carrying on their legacy even after their gone!
    I think the recipes that have changes are brilliant – it shows progress and improvement but at the same time I think they need to remain fundamentally the same as their original state – as in the core of the meal should stay the same but adding to that I think is great!

  • Reply Pam July 6, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    I love church lady recipes. One of my favorite dinner inspirations is looking through all of the church cookbooks that I have collected over the years.

  • Reply Kim July 6, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    If I had to kill and clean 2 chickens, I probably wouldn’t be making those recipes…lol…the tuna macaroni salad sounds yummy. I’m tired of the same old summer side dishes. Thank you to the church ladies.

  • Reply Tonya Wilhelm July 6, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    That is so neat you have all those hand written recipes. We have a lot of hand written recipes too. I need to figure how to organize them better. And, this tuna salad looks amazing.

  • Reply Gwendolyn M Mulholland July 6, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    I don’t follow recipes to a “T” and often modify them for my family. I don’t measure and find it hard when someone asks me for a recipe. I have also went looking for a favorite old recipe. One of mine is from a women’s magazine and I got it over 16 years ago for basic brownies and several variations. I still use that recipe to this day when I am cooking from scratch. I thought I lost it when we moved but I found it and now it stays on my fridge.

  • Reply Tamara July 6, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Pasta rings! I always loved them.
    I love the language of my mom or grandmother’s recipes. “Kill a chicken”, indeed! My husband keeps his grandmother’s Jewish Chicken Noodle Soup and it’s so soup-stained and smudged. An original copy, though!

  • Reply valmg @ Mom Knows It All July 6, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    That macaroni looks like what we call Ditalini here. I have a thing for collecting cookbooks. I really need to thin them out.

  • Reply Celestial B Purposed July 6, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Those are some of the best recipes from the ladies at church and our elders in the family. My grandmother had to kick me out of the kitchen regularly with a wooden spoon to keep me from sticking my fingers in the food.

  • Reply sondra July 6, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    I love that the recipes are handwritten and they colors are faded on the note cards. With recipes comes memories of who you made them with or for.

  • Reply Dogvills July 7, 2017 at 12:54 am

    You’ll never go wrong with family recipes. This macaroni-tuna salad looks so delicious! I can’t wait to try it.

  • Reply Neha July 7, 2017 at 1:25 am

    Macroni looks so yumm and cute! You surely have some magic by your side dear! Even though I put all my efforts in cooking exactly as I’m told in your posts, I fail. Every time!! I guess I can never be as good a cook as you are. But such lovely recipes always motivate and encourage me to give it another try. 😛

  • Reply Neha July 7, 2017 at 1:26 am

    You surely have some magic by your side dear! Even though I put all my efforts in cooking exactly as I’m told in your posts, I fail. Every time!! I guess I can never be as good a cook as you are. But such lovely recipes always motivate and encourage me to give it another try. 😛

  • Reply My Teen Guide July 7, 2017 at 1:46 am

    My mom never kept a recipe notebook. She would find an interesting recipe in a magazine and cook it on the weekend. At dinner time, she would tell us how the dish was made. So my recipe book is all stored in my brain. I wish I had a hard copy though. Something I can give my daughter so she can carry on with the heirloom recipes. Maybe I can start now…

  • Reply Katie July 7, 2017 at 8:14 am

    I love to research the origins of family recipes. I’ve never seen a ring macaroni salad before. It reminds me of the old cookbooks I’ve found in thrift store, the ones that were produced by a church or a ladies’ club.

  • Reply Whitney Abigail July 7, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Macaroni is such a staple family meal – can’t go wrong with it. I can’t imagine ever using mayo to make a cake haha

  • Reply Alexia Pinto July 7, 2017 at 11:54 am

    That recipe card is so darling! I love family recipes, my grandma makes a really great crab dip that we have been making for many years. My daughter will love this recipe, you always have such awesome recipes!! We will be making this one mid next week when we are expecting rain showers.

  • Reply Lori Vachon July 7, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    I really only have one family recipethat was handed down. Memories of my youth come to mind when I make the cookies on that tattered recipe card. Cherished memories!

  • Reply Jenn @ EngineerMommy July 7, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Food and family traditions go hand in hand in my family. I love the idea of hand-written recipe notes tucked into the cookbook pages. That is such a sweet idea.

  • Reply Catalina @ Peas & Peonies July 7, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    I also have a cookbook of my mum! It has more than 30 years old and is so precious for us! There we have recipes that my mother collected from her friends, neighbors, mum and it is not only a simple cookbook, that is full of our memories. 🙂

  • Reply margarette July 7, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Aw that food sounds very delicious. Will try doing it with my mom in the future.

  • Reply Adea July 7, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    This is such a good reflection on your childhood. All the while I could imagine my grandmothers and how they’d always cook without a recipe. I think you should definitely add your own twist to the recipes to make them suit your taste and palate, because food should be always enjoyable.

  • Reply Sierra July 7, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    At the beginning of your post you talked about hand written notes with recipes that had been past down from older family members and it made me think about the different stories and pictures my family has passed down throughout the years. My family isn’t very good at cooking and often times need help from betty crocker. I see that cooking and recipes is something that your family values and I appreciate that. When my family gets together we pass around old photos and share stories. Although I am sure the stories have had details added throughout the years that probably weren’t presented in the original story – these are the stories I plan on sharing with my grand children.

  • Reply candy July 8, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    My mother was a big collector of church ladies cookbooks. She folded pages, wrote in edges and stuck pieces of paper with great recipes stuck in the middle of the books. I love to read these old cookbooks I have gained from my mom. Makes me think of her in the kitchen making great meals.

  • Reply A Busy Bees Life - Sheri July 9, 2017 at 1:16 am

    Family recipes are great to have and to pass down, ad to have all those recipes from your grandfather is wonderful. The pics look good, you always have it so perfectly made! Was nice to read more about you.

  • Reply Our Family World July 9, 2017 at 9:01 am

    I don’t have a recipe book because I usually cook from scratch. Whatever is available and I know would taste good together, I cook it. Sometimes my sons would ask me what a certain dish is called, I just say, “I don’t know. You give it a name.” So far, no one has complained about my cooking. 🙂

  • Reply Tami July 10, 2017 at 9:20 am

    I enjoy finding and making vintage recipes. One of my favorites is the chocolate gravy my grandma makes to pour over biscuits.

  • Reply Diana Ajih July 10, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    Pass down recipes are the ones I enjoy making the most. One of my favorites is the peach cobbler my mom makes every Thanksgiving. I’ve been eating it since childhood and she’s been eating it since her childhood.

  • Reply wicklessusa July 11, 2017 at 3:11 am

    My husband and I both really liked this. The only change I made was to cook the rice separately because I made it in the morning to reheat for dinner and was worried about the rice being soggy. My husband put his second helping in a tortilla shell, which was a great idea. Thanks for another wonderful recipe, and a quick one at that!

  • Reply Ellie July 12, 2017 at 9:25 am

    I’ve not had tuna in pasta in yard but I always loved it! I like to bake it with a tomato sauce with cheese grilled on top! Family recipes are always amazing

  • Reply Ania Travels July 12, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    I love old recipes, but I also love changing up my recipes and making it my own. I’ve never actually made a macaroni and tuna dish before, I would love to try this.

  • Reply eliza July 12, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    This ring macaroni is soo lovely! And definitely attractive to kids. Once a snack/ meal is appealing they got this initial feeling of “this is yummy” I’m sure gonna try this at home! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  • Reply Claire July 12, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    I really love tuna and tuna salad is one of my favorites!! I’ve been craving macaroni too. I think this plate is something I would really like as all the ingredients are my type!

  • Reply Surekha July 13, 2017 at 10:17 am

    My mom also maintains a notebook where she writes all her favorite recipes and the recipes he wants to try. I am gonna steal that from her one day. I wish my grand mother had such a treasured recipe book. she is a wonderful cook. I myself don’t maintain any recipe book thinking I can always call my mom. After reading this, i should probably start doing that just to treasure and pass it on to my kids later. Ring pasta looks delicious, I am going to try this.

  • Reply Nelu Mbingu July 15, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    Things like these help us travel to the past to see how the older generation lived. Not to say that things are better now or were better then, but to know the differences, I think is important. It just gives us perspective, you know.

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