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Mama's Michigans and Pasta Salad

Updated on May 5, 2015
Michigans and Pasta Salad--Summer food!
Michigans and Pasta Salad--Summer food!

What the heck is a Michigan?

Finally, summer is right around the corner! The weather is getting warmer, and that means that it is time for summer food! When I sat down to write this week's grocery list, I was trying to think of something different to make for dinner, and Michigan's popped into my head! Now, if you are not from Upstate New York, chances are that you have no clue what a Michigan is. There are actually several restaurants in my hometown that compete to make the best Michigan, but my mama's recipe has always been my favorite!

A Michigan is a typical hot dog, on a typical hot dog bun, but it is topped with onions, mustard and Michigan sauce--which is made up of ground beef, tomato sauce, and yummy spices such as garlic, chili powder and cumin. I promise that Michigan sauce will turn your boring old hot dog into something amazing! When at a restaurant in my hometown, when you order a michigan, it is customary to order it either "with" or "without", and everybody knows that you're talking about onions, even though they haven't been mentioned by name. I prefer mine "with" but without mustard. Another amazing way to have them, is with fries and a cherry shake! Yum! This savory recipe can be adjusted to anyone's personal tastes. Especially if you prefer things a little bit spicier, a couple of dashes of cayenne pepper, or a few dashes of Franks hot sauce can turn up the heat in the sauce.

What I have always thought is funny is that in the state of Michigan, they call these chili dogs or Coney dogs, not Michigans. Funny, huh?

And then...

And then there is my mama's famous pasta salad.

I know that basically everyone has their own version of pasta salad, and maybe you even prefer the kind that you make from a box, but this recipe for pasta salad blows any other recipe out of the water! Delicious noodles, italian dressing, parmesan cheese, lots of veggies and more, add to the must-return-for-more quality of this summer staple! Just ask my friend Noelle and her husband Luke, whenever they come to my parents house for a meal, they always are excited for my moms pasta salad!

Let's get cooking!

The recipe for the Michigans has my favorite quality about recipes, and that is that there are only a few ingredients involved in making them. When I am looking for new recipes and I see that most of the ingredients are spices that I already have, I am definitely interested because that means I will not have to spend a lot of money on a bunch of ingredients just for one recipe. It only takes about 2 minutes to prepare the ingredients for the Michigans, and all that is left to do, is to wait to eat them!

What you will need:

  • Medium-size saucepan or skillet, with the top to the pan
  • 1 lb of ground beef or ground turkey
  • A 15oz can or jar of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp finely diced onion

(If you or someone you are cooking for does not like onions, you can omit the onions and use 1/2 tsp of onion powder.)


  1. Add the tomato sauce, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, pepper, and diced onions (or onion powder) to the pan and combine.
  2. Crumble the raw meat into the sauce and chop the meat with a flat spatula so that the pieces of meat are as small as you can get them. This is key to achieving the correct texture of the sauce.
  3. Simmer on low, covered but slightly vented so the moisture can evaporate.
  4. Cook for 1 to 1.5 hours until the meat and sauce are combined and the mixture is thick. I find that every 10 minutes it helps to stir the mixture and chop the hamburger meat a little more.
  5. When the sauce is finished, it should be thick and not soupy. It should be very easy to spoon the sauce onto the hot dogs. Serve on top of hot dogs, with optional chopped onions and your chosen hot dog toppings. My personal favorite way to eat them is with the chopped onions under the hot dog so that they do not fall off when I am eating them, then the hot dog, then the Michigan sauce.

Michigan Sauce
Michigan Sauce

Cook time for Michigan Sauce

Prep time: 2 min
Cook time: 1 hour 30 min
Ready in: 1 hour 32 min
Yields: 1 lb of hamburger mixture = 1 package of hot dogs

Michigan Sauce

  • 1 lb Hamburger meat
  • 15 oz Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 3 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Pepper
  • 1 tsp finely diced onion

Now for the Pasta Salad!

This recipe could not be any simpler. Like I said before, I know that everyone makes pasta salad their own special way. And I won't lie, I do sometimes just buy the pasta salad that comes in a box, because yeah, it is really good. But, I prefer to make my own if I have the time because fresher ingredients taste better, and for the most part, there aren't any preservatives in fresh pasta salad. Also, my mom finally told me what her secret ingredient is, the one that makes this pasta salad special, and ties everything together perfectly.

Ready? Gather your ingredients! You will need:

Pasta Salad Ingredients
Pasta Salad Ingredients
  • 1lb pasta noodles
  • Italian dressing
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • Dash of paprika
  • 1/2 cup olives
  • 1/2 cup sliced pepperoni
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup of sliced grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cubed sharp cheese
  • Also, a large boiling pot and colander

Once you have all of your ingredients,

  • Boil and cook the pasta, just as you would any pasta.
  • Chop all vegetables, cheese and pepperoni. I typically chop the cheese into 1x1 cubes, and cut the slices of pepperoni into 4 smaller pieces.
  • Drain the pasta and rinse with ice cold water.

  • Transfer the cold pasta to a large bowl.
  • Add the vegetables, cheese, and pepperoni.
  • Add the Italian dressing. Depending on how much dressing you like in pasta salad, I just squirt a bunch in, then mix well, and add more if needed.

  • Combine all of the ingredients fully
  • Add the garlic powder (the secret ingredient!) and paprika, stir
  • Finally, add the parmesan cheese, and stir.
  • Enjoy, along with the Michigans since they go oh-so perfectly together, or with any meal!

Time to eat

Since these are such personal recipes, I honestly hope that you and your family enjoy this meal as much as I do! You could also eat the Michigans with french fries, and you could also just make a bunch of the pasta salad, and have some for lunch for an entire week! Any way you choose, these recipes are #1 in my book.

What do you think?

5 stars from 2 ratings of Mama's Michigan and Pasta Salad


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    • vickiholder profile image

      Vicki Holder 

      3 years ago from The beautiful Ouachita Mtns. in Arkansas

      The pasta salad looks amazing. I admit I have never heard of a Michigan. Sounds sort of like a chili dog.


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