Burger in a bowl

Beat your summer craving with this cheeseburger pasta salad.

Cheeseburger in a bowl includes everything you want on your burger. —Nicole Jackson

Summer feels like it was so long ago, and next summer feels so far away. Not only do I miss the warm weather, I also miss grilling. I know it’s typically left to the guys, but I prefer to man the grill myself. I could fire the grill up, but the thought of standing outside in this blistering cold for a burger isn’t high on my priority list. There are great burger options on-Island; some of my favorites are Bobby B’s, Espresso Love, Chowder Co., Edgartown Pizza, and the Barn, Bowl and Bistro. Takeout is always nice, but if I have the time, I would rather cook.

I wanted to do something different, something burger-inspired, without the use of a grill, or pan-searing burger patties on the stovetop. I started brainstorming and compiling a list of toppings that go on a basic burger, and decided to make a cheeseburger pasta salad, to be served chilled and made with ingredients that would mimic a cheeseburger.

I admit I was worried this dish was going to be a total misadventure, but to my pleasant surprise it exceeded my expectations in flavor, uniqueness, and satisfaction. Ironically, this is a dish I would love to make for a potluck cookout. Holy yum, I had to share. I gave my friend a bowl to try while I did the dishes, sneaking a peek at his reaction. My taste tester didn’t even have to say it was good. I watched him devour the rest of the bowl and go back for seconds. That said it all. A Miracle Whip hater even liked it — a controversial ingredient, loved by many, hated by more.

My friend told me the sauce in the cheeseburger pasta salad reminded him of the legendary Special Sauce on the McDonald’s Big Mac — watch out, Ronald McDonald. This was unintentional on my part; I can honestly say in my entire 30 years on the planet, I have never had the iconic Big Mac. My strong dislike for sesame seeds makes it something I have zero desire to try. But this cheeseburger pasta salad, good for a winter burger craving or a summer potluck dish, this you should give a try.

Cheeseburger Pasta Salad

1 box pasta elbows
olive oil
1.5 lb. ground beef
cherry tomatoes
iceberg lettuce
red onion
1½ cups Miracle Whip
¾ cup ketchup
¾ cup yellow mustard
½ cup pickle juice
¼ cup white vinegar
Shredded cheese

Boil the elbows in a large pot. Drain and set aside and toss with a little olive oil, to ensure they don’t stick together while cooling.

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Crumble ground beef into the skillet; cook until the beef is completely brown, drain any excess grease, and set aside.

Slice cherry tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and red onion, and place them in a bowl.

Combine Miracle Whip, ketchup, mustard, pickle juice, and vinegar and whisk until blended.

Let the noodles and beef completely cool — it’s important they are cool so as not to wilt the vegetables.

Add the beef and Nicole’s special sauce to the noodles, and stir until completely mixed. Lightly toss in the tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and red onion. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese.