In Finnish stores one can find a prepared salad known as Italian salad. It is one of my favourites, and something I always like to have when we visit Finland. Although it is not a traditional part of the Christmas menu, it is something we have always served alongside the very traditional rosolli, and another less traditional beetroot salad. It is made from pasta, hence the name, with ham, peas, and various other ingredients, in a creamy dressing. My own version is not entirely like that which one can buy in Finland, but we enjoy it nonetheless.
For the pasta, macaroni might generally be recommended. However, I am not fond of macaroni, as I generally find the pasta to be too thick, such that the outside is too soft and the inside too chewy. Instead, I like to use a small pasta shape called chifferi rigati – a small, short, curved tubular shape, although any of the smaller shapes would serve well. One challenge with this salad is ensuring that it does not become claggy if prepared ahead of time. Even once cooked, the pasta continues to absorb moisture, so the once creamy dressing will tend to be absorbed whilst the salad sits in the refrigerator. To help prevent this, I cook the pasta until just done, then drain it and place in a bowl of cold water for a while. This seems to help. Of course, one could prepare twice the amount of dressing, and perhaps thin the dressing with a little water.
The recipe calls for a mild prepared mustard of the style common in Finland and Sweden. If not available, reduce the amount to taste, according the strength of the mustard.