Macaroni Salad with Italian Ingredients - Dr. Axe

Italian-Inspired Macaroni Salad Recipe with Cherry Tomatoes

Macaroni salad recipe

I’ll be honest: macaroni salad isn’t usually a dish I get too excited about. The kind of macaroni salad most of us grew up with is usually packed with mayonnaise, sugar (a hidden ingredient many people won’t tell you about!) and refined white pasta.

But then I got to thinking about how to make my own macaroni salad recipe. Something loaded with fresh flavors and wholesome ingredients and, of course, is easy to make. And that’s how I came up with this Italian-inspired easy macaroni salad recipe. Dare I say it’s the best pasta salad you’ll try?

Key Macaroni Salad Ingredients

This macaroni salad couldn’t be easier to assemble, and you might be surprised by the ingredients in it. My recipe for pasta salad includes cheesy buffalo mozzarella, shredded chicken and brown rice pasta. Best of all, it’s good for you.

Buffalo mozzarella is made from the milk of water buffalo. Like other high-quality cheeses, it’s rich in calcium and protein. We add just enough here to ensure you enjoy cheesy bites without having it overpower the rest of the meal.

The pesto in this macaroni salad adds a ton of flavor. Pesto is a topping that instantly makes any dish feel more special. For this recipe, my homemade basil tomato pesto would work nicely, but any of your favorite pesto recipes are fine, too. To save time, you can also use pre-made pesto; I’d recommend getting some at your local farmers market or sticking to the ones in the refrigerated section at the grocery store.


Adding cooked chicken to this easy pasta salad is a great way to up the protein content, making this macaroni salad the perfect main meal. I recommend grilled chicken sprinkled with Italian seasoning.

And finally, instead of refined carbs, we’re using brown rice pasta. This type of noodle is becoming more popular thanks to its health benefits, so you should be able to find it at your local grocery store. It’s made from ground brown rice, which can boost heart health and lower cholesterol levels.

Because it’s not made from wheat, brown rice pasta is also naturally gluten-free, making it safe for those following a gluten-free diet. Its taste is really similar to whole-wheat pasta, and it’s cooked the same, too. It makes a great alternative to your normal pasta options. (If you’re okay with gluten, you can also go with whole wheat macaroni.)

Macaroni salad recipe ingredients - Dr. Axe

Nutrition Facts

So what are you getting in one serving of this macaroni salad recipe? At only 324 calories, it can make a perfect small lunch or dinner side. You can also match with a soup or protein dish.

It’s a very balanced macronutrient dish, with 22.9 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of fat and 24 grams of protein. Its vitamin and mineral content is excellent. Each serving possesses more than 30 percent of your Daily Value of vitamins A, B3 and K, plus nearly half of your Daily Value for manganese, phosphorus and selenium.

Each serving of this pasta salad is 229 grams or just over two cups. It contains the following:

  • Calories: 324
  • Carbohydrates: 22.9 g
  • Fiber: 2.8 g
  • Sugar: 3 g
  • Total Fat: 15.9 g
    • Saturated Fat: 4.8 g
    • Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g
    • Monounsaturated Fat: 8.1 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
    • Cholesterol: 56 g
  • Protein: 23.5 g
  • Sodium: 344 mg (23% DV*)
  • Vitamin A: 787 IU (34% DV*)
  • Vitamin B-3: (Niacin) 5.4 mg (39% DV*)
  • Vitamin K: 28.8 mcg (32% DV*)
  • Manganese: 1.2 mg (68% DV*)
  • Phosphorus: 340 mg (49% DV*)
  • Selenium: 32.1 mcg (58% DV*)
  • Zinc: 2.3 mg (29% DV*)

*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.

How to Make a Macaroni Salad

What makes this macaroni salad extra wonderful is that you basically combine all the ingredients in a big bowl and dig in. You’ll have to do a bit of prep work first, though.

Start by halving your cherry tomatoes. Go for the freshest ones you can find; they’ll add a little sweetness to this pasta dish.

Macaroni salad recipe step 1 - Dr. Axe

You’ll want to chop up the buffalo mozzarella as well. I like chopping it into small pieces, but you can opt for chunks if you’d like.

Macaroni salad recipe step 2 - Dr. Axe

While you’re chopping away, prepare the pasta.

Macaroni salad recipe step 3 - Dr. Axe

While you’re chopping away, prepare the pasta.

Once the pasta has cooked and cooled, it’s time for the mixing to begin. Toss in those cherry tomatoes, then add in the pesto.

Add the Italian seasoning, capers, mozzarella and drizzle the balsamic vinegar over it all.

Gently stir the macaroni salad together, making sure the noodles are well-coated with pesto and the other ingredients are evenly combined.


macaroni salad recipe step 10 - Dr. Axe

Then add in the chicken and stir again.

This hearty macaroni salad works really well as a main dish (you can double the serving size, but you can also serve smaller portions and enjoy as a side.

Other Recommended Pasta Dishes

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Macaroni salad recipe

Macaroni Salad Recipe

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  • Author: Dr. Josh Axe
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Macaroni salad isn’t exactly synonymous with a healthy dish … until now. Here we use the healthiest version of macaroni and add a blend of delicious, nutritious ingredients that up the protein and overall vitamin/mineral content. You’ll put this on repeat.


  • 4 cups brown rice macaroni pasta, cooked
  • 2 cups chicken, shredded and cooked
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 package buffalo mozzarella pearls, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh chopped basil
  • ¼ cup pesto
  • ¼ cup capers or olives
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Cook the brown rice macaroni.
  2. Use already prepared chicken to add to dish. Easiest way it to roast a whole chicken, and then take part of the bone-in breast and thigh and shred two cups worth with a fork.
  3. In a large bowl, place all the ingredients. Mix together until well-combined.
  4. Can be served at room temperature or chilled.
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 10 min
  • Category: Main Dishes, Side Dishes
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean


  • Serving Size: 1 serving (229 g)
  • Calories: 324
  • Sugar: 3 g
  • Sodium: 344 mg (23% DV)
  • Fat: 15.9 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.8 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 10.1 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 22.9 g
  • Fiber: 2.8 g
  • Protein: 23.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 56 g

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  1. Lena on

    It tastes good and easy to turn vegetarian, I like it. But what does a box of pasta mean? It’s not a real measurement, there are plenty of sizes and even if in your country it’s unified, not all your readers are from there :)


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