Easy Italian Macaroni Salad

Try a new fresh take on macaroni salad with this Easy Italian Macaroni Salad!  It contains zesty lemon flavors with delicious textures from fresh crunchy celery, crisp red onions, fresh parsley, and elbow pasta!  A lighter side for macaroni salad makes a wonderful addition to any barbecue, picnic, or potluck.  Great for meal planning too!


People often think that macaroni salads are loaded with fatty mayonnaise, and yes while some do, that’s not always the case.  This salad is flavorful without all that mayo.

Our macaroni salad is very light and delicious tasting. It’s tossed with fresh lemon juice to give it a refreshing flavor, and only a touch of mayonnaise and a little cayenne pepper for some heat. 

Omit the mayo and use Greek yogurt in its place, it’s ideal for vegans!

It’s perfect.  Nothing fancy, just a simple recipe with fresh flavors! 

Best of all it’s 42 calories per serving!

A flavorful side dish, this easy Italian macaroni salad is so good, that even the kids will enjoy this one too!


Easy Italian Macaroni Salad by 2sistersrecipes.com


Our Italian Macaroni Salad is made with elbow pasta, but you can make it with any small, bite-size pasta of your choice.

NOTES and TIPS for our easy Italian Macaroni Salad…

  • The key to making a great macaroni salad is not to overcook the pasta. 
  • When making macaroni salad, it is best to undercook the pasta for about 1 minute or so (aka “al-dente” – which means tender to the bite) and drain well in a colander.
  • Then toss it with a few fresh ingredients, season with salt and pepper to taste, and chill for a least 30 minutes or more before serving.  Easy-peasy!
  • Like all salads, always taste the salad before serving it and adjust the seasonings and vinaigrette if you need to.
  • Pasta salads tend to absorb most of their juices and vinaigrette while marinating; therefore, you may need to adjust and add additional vinaigrette to your preference. 
  • Finally, transfer the salad to a pretty serving bowl and serve.

Easy Italian Macaroni Salad is clean tasting and uncomplicated! 

A great recipe that works well with gluten-free pasta too!

Make It Your Own! 

  • add in a little extra virgin olive oil (1 or 2 tablespoons)
  • omit the mayo and use Greek (low-fat) yogurt
  • toss in thinly sliced carrots for a splash of color
  • toss in sliced green onions, cherry tomatoes, and chopped peppers for texture
  • add in additional fresh or dried herbs
Easy Italian Macaroni Salad by 2sistersrecipes.com

Macaroni salads are always welcomed at gatherings.  They compliment just about anything you serve on the buffet including grilled meats and fish! 

They stay fresh all week long, kept in the fridge. Add it to your meal plan and have it for lunch all week long. It’s great!

Try this one!


   …Thanks for Pinning!

Easy Italian Macaroni Salad by 2sistersrecipes.com


Here are a few more Italian Macaroni Salads you might enjoy. 🙂 

Best Orzo Salad with Spinach is delicious tasting and quick to make with a few tasty ingredients including ribbons of fresh spinach for some healthy greens! 

 Best Orzo Salad with Spinach by 2sistersrecipes.com


And, Easy Pasta Salad with Bocconcini is also a favorite pasta salad!  Fast & easy too,  this pasta salad is tossed with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, little mozzarella balls, and rotini pasta.  YUM!

Easy Pasta Salad with Bocconcini by 2sistersrecipes.com

In case you missed it…



Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Easy Italian Macaroni Salad

Easy Italian Macaroni Salad by 2sistersrecipes.com

Easy Italian Macaroni Salad is made with fresh zesty lemon flavors and delicious textures from crisp celery, red onions, fresh parsley, and elbow pasta! A lighter side for this Italian Macaroni Salad makes a wonderful dish to serve chilled all summer long!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Total Time 16 minutes


  • 2 cups of elbow pasta
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 large lemon - juice ( about 1/4 cup)
  • 4 Tbsp. mayonnaise ( or Greek Yogurt)
  • 1 celery stalk - thinly sliced
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • extra lemon, if needed
  • optional: 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil


  1. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the water. Then toss in 2 cups of elbow pasta and cook the pasta for 5 to 6 minutes. Do not overcook or it will ruin the salad. The pasta should be al-dente, which means a nice tender bite to it.
  2. Drain the pasta in a colander and let it sit in there for a minute to cool down.
  3. Next in a large mixing bowl, toss in the celery, red onion, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. and a dash of cayenne pepper. Then toss in the elbow pasta and fresh parsley, and stir until well combined.
  4. Taste the pasta salad and season with salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
  5. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.
  6. Just before serving, toss the salad and taste once more. If you feel it needs a little more lemon juice, squeeze an additional 1/2 of a lemon over the salad, toss and serve.
  7. Serves 4 to 6

Nutrition Information:


4 to 6 servings

Serving Size:

1/2 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 42

Did you make this recipe?

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xo anna and liz

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Servings: 6
Amount per serving 
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3.3g4%
Saturated Fat 0.5g2%
Cholesterol 3mg1%
Sodium 72mg3%
Total Carbohydrate 3.1g1%
Dietary Fiber 0.2g1%
Total Sugars 0.9g 
Protein 0.2g 
Vitamin D 0mcg0%
Calcium 5mg0%
Iron 0mg0%
Potassium 20mg
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  1. The only kind of macaroni salad I ever make is with tuna. I need to branch out a little 🙂 This sounds great and not high in calories either.

    1. Ok then, this is a good reason to start with a new macaroni salad like this one! I think you will be very pleased with its flavors and textures. Thanks Susan! 🙂