What makes a recipe special? Perhaps it’s easy to make, or simply delicious. It could also be special because of the person who shared it with you.

Recipe swaps are a great way to add variety to our meals. At church or community dinners, it seems everyone likes to bring something a little "different" — and enjoy it when someone wants the recipe.

One of my favorite specialty-type food gatherings is the salad supper. I remember a year or so ago when my friend, the late Betty Lawler, asked if I had tasted her new pasta salad. When she learned that I had not, she insisted on getting me a sample of it to try. I had expected a savory Italian herb based pasta salad, so my tastebuds were in for a big surprise. This was a "sweet" pasta salad, and it was delicious.

Betty loved to cook, and I never tasted anything she made that wasn’t good. One of her greatest joys was preparing Sunday dinner for her family. She made wonderful potato salad, but she didn't like it served cold. I can’t help but smile when I remember the time when she brought the potato salad to a church dinner and someone made the mistake of putting it in the refrigerator. Needless to say, we got it out quickly.

Recently, my daughter Twila mentioned that she was so disappointed that she had not asked Miss Betty for the recipe for her sweet pasta salad. She was thrilled when I told her that I thought I might have it in my birthday recipe box.

My daughters had given me a birthday party last year and had asked that instead of bringing gifts, each attendee bring one of their favorite recipes. You can imagine which one Betty brought.

I am not sure about the origin of this recipe, but I am certainly glad my longtime friend shared it with our family. I will cherish it forever, and I think you will enjoy it also.

I must admit that I was a little concerned when I noticed that the recipe calls for a can of sweetened condensed milk, but the addition of a pint of mayonnaise helps cut the sweetness a little. Keep in mind that this makes a lot of salad, so unless you are having a lot of people to feed, you might want to make a half-recipe. However, leftovers are good for several days.

This is indeed a special recipe from a very special lady.

SWEET PASTA SALAD

  • 1 (16 ounce) box of bowtie macaroni
  • 4 carrots, shredded
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, cook the macaroni until tender (about 8 minutes). Drain and rinse. In a large bowl, stir together the carrots, onions, bell peppers and celery. In another bowl, combine mayonnaise, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, vinegar, salt and black pepper. Mix well. Add macaroni and vegetables and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate for about 8 hours.

Contact Prudence Hilburn at prudencehilburn@aol.com.