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How to Make Asparagus and Pea Gluten-Free Macaroni Pasta Salad

Skip the deli! Here's how to make this Asparagus and Pea Macaroni Salad that's the perfect gluten-free make-ahead convenience food for a quick lunch or picnic dish + some macaroni salad history!

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The Pasta Salad CRAZE That’s Shaped America - I say Macaroni! You say PASTA!

Culturally, when most of us think of pasta and the dishes created from its starchy noodles, we think of Italian food. But Macaroni Pasta Salad, a.k.a. Pasta Salad, and traditionally all macaroni and pasta salads, are more than likely believed to be an American food creation.

A Brief History of Pasta Through the Decades

No one’s quite sure who first came up with the idea for macaroni or pasta salad, even though pasta has been a staple of American cookbooks for decades.

Still, while these salads are not attributed to anyone, research points to the roots of these popular salads made from pasta, likely originating on American soil.

In the end, even though many of the world’s cultures have long eaten various forms of boiled dough. And while historians may tell you that the boiled dough is most associated with Italians. Pasta, as we know it today, worldwide, is generally flour-and-water (and sometimes egg) rolled and cut or flattened into many shapes. 

So, here is where this love affair with these doughy shapes called macaroni begins – at least for our recipe for Asparagus and Pea Macaroni Pasta Salad. So, set your whisk aside as we get set to stir into the pasta craze that shaped America!

closeup of Asparagus and Pea Macaroni Salad on a plate

ABOUT THIS RECIPE (per serving)

Gluten FreeQuick & Easy
Servings:  6
5 from 2 votes
Write a Recipe Review
Prep Time :10 minutes
Cook Time :12 minutes
Total Time :22 minutes
Course : Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch, Main Dish, Picnics, Side Dish, Supper
Cuisine : American
Diet : Gluten Free
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.
Calories 258
Fat 15.5
Carbohydrates 50.3
Protein 2.5

The Early Years...

Pasta, which usually refers to spaghetti, macaroni, or shaped noodles, has been around in print recipes in Italian and English since 1827 [1], though it dates in English print to 1661. Still, even earlier, it appears among the methods in the Forme of Cury [2] (a cookbook published in about 1390 by Richard II’s “Chief Master Cook). The macaroni and cheese (today’s ultimate modern American comfort food) appear as a dish called macrows.

Macrows: Take and make a thynne foyle of dowh. And kerve it on peces, and cast hem on boillyng water & see it wele. Take chese and grate it and butter cast bynethen and above as losyns. And serue forth.

Macrows: Take and make a thin foil of dough and carve it into pieces, and cast them on boiling water & seethe it well. Take cheese and grate it and butter, cast beneath and above, as with Loseyns, and serve forth.

Translated by the Food of England Project, it’s a dish we call mac ‘n cheese.


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The Eighteenth Century (1701 to 1800)

Following earlier mentions, you may recall the reference to “macaroni” in the famous eighteenth-century American song “Yankee Doodle Dandy” – “stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.” So, while you may think the term refers to pasta, it does not. The phrase is slang of the period for a dandy or a flop, after a club in London.

Furthermore, if you like food history...

You may find it fascinating that Thomas Jefferson, although most likely not the first to introduce macaroni to America. He did, however, help to popularize pasta by serving it to dinner guests during his presidency. A handwritten recipe by Jefferson himself still survives.

Still, although penned in Jefferson’s hand, the food may have been cooked by James Hemmings, an enslaved black chef who had come to Monticello as a boy. Hemmings is known to have traveled with Jefferson to France for the primary purpose of training in “the art of cookery” in Paris to become a chef de cuisine (executive chef).

Eventually, Hemmings returned to the United States, where (in 1790) he was called upon to go to Philadelphia as a chef for the Secretary of State. A position where he prepares dinners for European diplomats, the president, Jefferson’s fellow cabinet members, members of Congress, and many national and international visitors.

An interest in macaroni...

Forking into Jefferson’s interest in “macaroni” (the general word the president used for pasta), you may want to dig into his notes on Macaroni and about a “mould for making macaroni.” A device being procured by Jefferson’s emissary to Naples, William Short. You can read all about it in this article courtesy of the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia.

Today, whether on the web or in person, when visiting Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, hours can be spent digging into all of Jefferson’s food-related history, from Batter Cakes to Dutch Ovens, ice cream to muffins, to whiskey, wine, and more—all to be discovered in the Thomas Jefferson Library’s Encyclopedia category under food and drink.

Bridging the Gap - (1801 thru the late 1930s)

Pasta (a.k.a. macaroni) rose in popularity in American food culture during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Accordingly, recipes for pasta dishes began appearing in American cookbooks and newspapers from 1906 to 1914.

One notable cookbook published in 1902 was Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book, written by Mrs. Sarah Tyson (Heston) Rorer (1849 – 1937). Mrs. Rorer is considered the first dietician in America and was widely known for her philosophy of dietetics about using food to maintain health and treat disease.

Sarah Tyson Rorer 1898

Sarah Tyson Rorer / Public domain

Mrs. Sarah Tyson (Heston) Rorer (1849 – 1937) is considered to be the first dietician in America and is known for her philosophy of dietetics (using food to maintain health and treat disease). S she wrote in 1902 (Rorer, Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book, 300), “…Until within the past few years, macaroni was prepared as a luxury only for the tables of the very rich. Even now, it is sparingly used throughout the country by the American laboring classes. There is no reason, considering the price, and the ease with which it is prepared, why it should not enter extensively into the food of all our people.”

Rorer’s fame spread through her columns in a Philadelphia-based monthly, Table Talk, and in Ladies’ Home Journal.

The Twentieth Century (1901 to 2000)

As Americans know them today, pasta salads are the descendants of a long line of dressed macaroni dishes, both hot and cold.

Entering into the early 20th Century (1901 through about the 1960s), recipes for macaroni and pasta salads began to appear more frequently in American cookbooks everywhere. These salads are typically dressed with mayonnaise and served in stunning cold-molded presentations – think perfect domes of chilled elbow macaroni salad served as sides in yesteryear’s diners and corner delis.

How to tell Macaroni Salad from Pasta Salad

  • Macaroni salad is a mayonnaise-dressed side dish, often made for picnics and potlucks.
  • Pasta salad is generally dressed with a vinaigrette and served as a side dish or a meal on its own.
  • Both are served chilled and are popular dishes for making and eating during hot weather.

Fast-Forward to More Modern Times...

During the 1980s

A more modern cooking style began to define avoiding rich, heavy foods. Instead, the era emphasized fresh ingredients and presentation. Here, pasta dishes showcase varieties of pasta kinds and shapes. Cooks delight in creating dishes with gourmet varieties of pasta of various colors, sizes, and shapes.

At the same time, pasta salads start becoming trendy for carb-loading. All kinds of pasta’ are elevated to the status of upscale, affordable cuisine. Pasta now offers a creative approach to using leftovers, including mixing in vegetables, seafood, poultry, and other meats, making the salad more of a whole meal.

By the 1990s

All types of macaroni and varieties of pasta have surged in popularity as diet food. People are loading up on flavorful food combinations and cannot wait to dig into a big bowl of what they thought was a low-calorie option full of flavor.

Similarly, pasta salads became a glorified option where people, following the cues of celebrities and supermodels, jumped on board the pasta train. Celebrities were regularly photographed eating plates full of pasta salads like ice cream sundaes. Oh, those were the days, my friend.

Later in the 1990s and into the 2000s

Following the 1990s, Americans eating pasta became more of a contradiction.

Cooks dress noodles with simple ingredients and creative combinations to make them healthier and more nutritious.

Brown butter is everywhere, especially on pasta. Pesto pasta with grape tomatoes loaded with baby mozzarella cheese balls elevated in popularity. Simultaneously, ramen noodles became more than college dorm fare — even used for pasta salads.

The Twentieth Century (2001 to Present Day)

By 2010

Pasta salads enter a new course category, served and eaten as appetizers. They’re popular as main or side dishes for lunches, suppers, or picnics.

In 2020 and forward...

America’s favorite pasta is still an affordable convenience food, hitting the shelves of groceries and gourmet markets in many shapes and varieties. You’ll find it readily available online and at local grocery stores. You can buy it in fresh or dried options, packages, and box kits for making with or without a slew of added ingredients.

Finally, macaroni today…

Elbow macaroni remains the go-to noodle for most Americans, and pasta salads still can be found at most delis. However, most over-the-counter options no longer present them in perfect chilled domes.

Even so, nothing compares to the popularity of making macaroni or pasta salad at home for the freshest taste and flavor. The pasta-bilities are endless!

Perfect as a take-along for picnics and potluck dinners...

In the early 20th Century (1901 through about the 1960s), recipes for macaroni and pasta salads begin to appear more frequently in American cookbooks.

Did you like this recipe? Try these popular pasta salad recipes too!

Lemon Fusilli Salad with Shrimp

Seafood Pasta Salad with Imitation Crab

I hope you enjoy each of our pasta salad recipes on the website!

Who would’ve guessed that the pasta known as macaroni or pasta salad for that matter has such a fascinating history?



P.S. If you tried this recipe or liked reading about the history of macaroni and pasta salad, I would love to hear your thoughts. Let me know them in the comments section below.


[1] For more information on the history of spaghetti, macaroni, and shaped noodles, see: The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, by John F. Mariani, Bloomsbury, New York, USA 2013.

[2] Forme of Cury (MACROWS [1]. XX.IIII. XII.)

Asparagus and Pea Macaroni Salad ready to eat

Asparagus and Pea Macaroni Salad

Kymberley @GfreeDeliciously
Skip the deli! This Asparagus and Pea Macaroni Salad is the perfect make-ahead convenience food for a quick lunch or picnic dish!
5 from 2 votes
Gluten FreeQuick & Easy
This recipe may contain affiliate links. For more information, visit our Affiliate Disclosure.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 22 minutes
Course Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch, Main Dish, Picnics, Side Dish, Supper
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 258 kcal


  • Pot or Saucepans
  • Colander
  • bowls
  • Utensils (Whisk, Large Spoon, Measuring Cups and Spoons)


  • 2 ½ cups gluten-free Brown Rice Pasta spirals or other shaped noodles
  • 1 ½ cups fresh Asparagus cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 cup Peas fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup black Olives sliced
  • ½ pint grape Tomatoes sliced in half
  • ½ cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
  • ½ teaspoon Celery Salt
  • ½ teaspoon Cajun Seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon Black Pepper
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  • Cook pasta in a large pot or saucepan using the package directions as a guideline - most kinds of pasta cook in 8 to 12 minutes. Continue cooking until it is tender and firm but no longer crunchy - al-dente' (ahl-DEN-Tay). Drain the pasta, then rinse in cold water to bring the temperature down quickly, stopping the cooking process and keeping the noodles loose for the salad. Once cooled, transfer the cooled pasta to a colander or mesh strainer, and shake to remove excess water. Set aside.
  • Add peas and cut asparagus to a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Drain then rinse with cold water to cool, strain, and set aside.
  • Slice olives and tomatoes and set aside.
  • Combine the spices with the mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl and whisk to incorporate thoroughly.
  • Add the cooked pasta, asparagus and peas, black olives, and tomatoes to a large mixing bowl, stirring gently to combine.
  • Gently fold the mayonnaise and spice mixture into the pasta and vegetables until evenly blended.
  • Cover and place into the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes to allow for the flavors to mingle together. Stir gently before serving. Enjoy!


Calories: 258kcalCarbohydrates: 50.3gProtein: 2.5gFat: 15.5gSaturated Fat: 2.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 7.7mgSodium: 310.3mgPotassium: 9598.4mgFiber: 4.5gSugar: 2.5gVitamin A: 56.4IUVitamin C: 9.5mgCalcium: 4072.3mgIron: 9.2mg
Keyword quick and easy, summer, vegetables
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(Nutritional values are an approximation. Actual nutritional values may vary due to preparation techniques, variations related to suppliers, regional and seasonal differences, or rounding.)

Copyright © 2017-2024 Kymberley Pekrul | GfreeDeliciously | gfreedeliciously.com | All content and photographs are copyright protected. The sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. However, copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited. Please read my Photo Use Policy for detailed guidelines and further clarification.

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Where there's a whisk, there's always a way to enjoy it gluten-free...

Kymberley @gfreedeliciously

Kymberley @gfreedeliciously

Hi, I'm Kymberley, the creator of GfreeDeliciously and the Amazing, Glorious Journey Programs. I pray that my work will inspire you to honor your body through God and Good Food from the inside out, all while enjoying your Amazing, Glorious Journey!

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A professional writer and self-taught Gfree lifestyle expert on [most] gluten-free things, I’ve always loved cooking and creating delicious foods from scratch for myself and those I love.

My journey began when everything I thought I knew about cooking and eating suddenly changed one day when I discovered I was celiac. So, I re-learned how to eat, cook, and navigate through life gluten-free – trusting God and His plan for me.

I live in what’s known as the Holylands of Central Wisconsin. All the recipes you’ll find here are gluten-free and inspired by the people and places I love most. Whenever possible, I cook with seasonal ingredients using whole foods – Making dishes suitable for everyday life and all food lovers gathered at the same table.

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Simple and delicious gluten-free recipes, family-friendly meal ideas, healthy cooking, encouragement, and easy-to-implement lifestyle strategies to live fully nourished from the creator and publisher of GfreeDeliciously.com Kymberley Pekrul.


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