Erin Merhar is a professionally trained chef, food stylist, and recipe developer. When she is not coming up with the next great dish for ThePioneerWoman.com, you can find her at the farmers' market or making pizza for friends.
When ruby-red tomatoes are at their best, there's no better dish than the classic bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich—until now! Combining two American comfort foods, the BLT sandwich and pasta salad recipes, this BLT pasta salad is the ultimate crowdpleaser. Mix it up for your next cookout to serve alongside saucy BBQ ribs and baked beans, or take it to your next outdoor potluck. It'll be the first dish to go and everyone will request the recipe!
Besides the juicy tomatoes and the crispy bacon, the key to making this pasta salad so delicious is in the dressing. It starts with a mayo base that get's a zesty kick from one of the best kitchen hacks—ranch seasoning mix! It's cool, creamy, herby, and packed with flavor.
How do you make the best pasta salad?
Great pasta salads are all about balance. This version combines crisp, smoky bacon, fresh tomatoes that add a burst of juiciness, romaine for a fresh crunch, salty parmesan cheese, and onion and herbs for added flavor. Paired with pasta and tossed in the zippiest, creamiest ranch dressing, it is an utterly addictive side dish for every summer occasion.
Can pasta salad be made ahead of time?
This pasta salad recipe is easy and works for just about any get-together. If you're in a rush, you can eat it as soon as you mix it together! But you can also make it ahead and keep it for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. If making it the day before, keep the bacon and lettuce on the side until ready to serve. (Tossing them in just before will make sure they stay crunchy.) You’ll also want to hold a small amount of dressing on the side to mix in right before serving, or you can moisten the pasta salad before serving with an additional 1/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk.
Which pasta is best for pasta salad?
Technically, you can use any pasta shape for this recipe, but bite-sized pasta with texture and holes is best to catch the dressing, herbs, and other toppings. Try bowties, shells, orecchiette, or penne—or go for something with a spiral-shape like fusilli or cavatappi.
Should you rinse the pasta for pasta salad?
For a cold pasta salad, you certainly can (and should) rinse your pasta in a colander. Warning: This is not the case for hot pasta—never rinse pasta when you're making a hot dish. When it's cold, though, you actually want to stop the pasta from cooking further by using cold water to rinse off some of the starch so the pieces don't stick together. If you are cooking your pasta the day before, give it a rinse, then toss it with 1 teaspoon of olive oil (to prevent it from sticking together) and refrigerate in a covered container.
What bacon is best for BLT pasta salad?
Center-cut bacon is a great choice for this recipe, because there's a higher meat-to-fat ratio per slice. Other than that, the sky's the limit—peppered bacon is delicious, as well as applewood-smoked bacon. Folks looking to trim a little fat from their diet can opt for turkey bacon, just note that the cook time will slightly differ, and you may need to add a little oil to the pan.
What's the best way to cook bacon?
This recipe calls to cook bacon the classic way—in the pan. However, the bacon can be cooked in the oven or in the microwave. To microwave bacon, place slices in an even layer on a paper-towel-lined plate, and microwave in 90-second intervals until crisp.
How long can BLT pasta salad sit out at room temperature?
While this summer salad is an excellent choice for outdoor cookouts and picnics, it doesn't need to hang out unrefrigerated for too long before serving due to the mayo-based dressing. It shouldn't sit out more than an hour or two but the good news is, it's easy to store in a cooler if you need to keep it cool for longer!
- 8 - 10 serving(s)
- Prep Time:
- 25 mins
- Total Time:
- 25 mins
12-oz. package bacon
16-oz. box fusilli or curly pasta
- 1 c.
- 3/4 c.
1-oz. packet ranch seasoning mix
Juice of one lemon
- 1/4 c.
grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp.
ground black pepper
pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 c.
thinly sliced romaine lettuce
- 1/2 c.
chopped red onion
- 1/4 c.
chopped fresh herbs, such as dill and/or parsley
- Step 1Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning as needed, until the fat has rendered and the bacon is golden and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. (You may need to cook the bacon in two batches, draining the rendered fat from the skillet between batches.) Let the bacon cool to room temperature, then crumble up into bite-sized pieces.
- Step 2Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and let cool.
- Step 3Meanwhile, whisk together the mayonnaise, milk, ranch seasoning, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, and black pepper in a large bowl. Add the pasta, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, herbs, and half of the crumbled bacon to the bowl with the dressing. Gently fold together to coat. Top with remaining bacon and serve.
Tip: If making this pasta salad the day before, do not stir in the romaine lettuce or bacon until just before serving. This will keep them crunchy and give your salad great texture!
Ree's Mediterranean Orzo Salad Feeds a Crowd
This Twice Baked Potato Casserole Is Pure Comfort
Squash Casserole Is an Old-School Potluck Favorite
Creamy Red Potato Salad Is the Best Cookout Side