You’re looking at my hubby’s current number one Favorite Thing I Cook. It hasn’t mattered how many times I made BLT Pasta Salad the week prior, if I tell him it’s on the table again, he’s happier than a kid with candy. Not that I’m surprised. Let’s break it down: pasta and bacon. Yes, there are other yummy things, but those are the two main means of bait when it comes to my guy. OK, sure, he likes it for other reasons, but when he asks me to just add a little more bacon next time, well, let’s just say I’m no fool.
I originally saw this recipe over at Skinny Taste, where you’ll find a slightly healthier version than mine. Honestly, though, I don’t do anything too different, except to change the dressing up a little, and I buy whatever bacon is on sale, not always the center cut variety that Skinny Taste suggests (it has less fat). Well, and we haven’t tried it with whole wheat pasta yet – but soon. I do, however, use a light mayo, and you really can’t tell the difference between it and it’s full-fat partner.
There’s a lot to recommend this not-so-little side dish. It’s got gorgeous colors and makes for a eye-popping presentation with the bright green from the spinach and red tomatoes. The bacon bits are little tucked in bonuses. It’s a perfect salad to take to a barbecue or other such event (see tips in the Notes section). And yes, it still tastes good the next day if you’re lucky enough to have some leftovers. I love it if I can save some for lunch the next day at work.
One thing I love about this salad is it’s so easy to find everything you need in the grocery store.. Not one exotic or gourmet ingredient in site. Just good, basic yet wonderful things.
I’m on a bit of a grape tomato kick lately. They pack in so much of the wonderful things I love about a good tomato: that kick of color, bursts of sweet, tomato goodness and just the right texture – never mealy. It’s a little more work to cut down and dice up these little guys, but after using regular tomatoes the first time, then these, well, there was no competition. Grape tomatoes enhance this pasta salad. A lot.
I like to make the dressing first so it has some time to come together in the fridge. I added thin-sliced green onions, some fresh thyme (although you can use dry, I’ve used both), a little salt and pepper, and, of course, the diced grape tomatoes. I’ve made the dressing up to two hours in advance, and it does seem like the longer it has to sit, the better it tastes when it’s added to the pasta.
OK, so spinach is not technically lettuce – but it’s in the original Skinny Taste recipe and I wasn’t going to argue with its obvious good points. It’s much more favorable, has a terrific crunchy quality that adds to the overall texture of the salad and it’s so very good for you. We love spinach at our house, so I was only too happy to toss it in and stir it up with the other ingredients. The only thing I did differently, eventually, was to roll several leaves together, discarding the stems, and slice each roll so that it made slender ribbons of spinach. This made for eating it much easier. Full-size, they’re bulky and the presentation just felt a little better to me this way.
You can use any pasta shape you like in this one, but at the moment, I’m hooked on corkscrew-shaped pasta. I’m not sure why – unless it’s that they’re fairly big pieces, and I like my pasta. Yes, I’m saying I’m a pasta pig. The bigger pasta allows for more flavor to reach my taste buds with every bite.
Whichever shape you choose, be sure it has those little lines or ridges. They capture the dressing and help to adhere it to the pasta. This is especially nice for this salad, because there’s not a whole lot of dressing compared to pasta. There’s just enough to lightly coat. You will not taste this dish and feel it’s weighted down with dressing, but that’s why it’s important that the lines in the pasta help the dressing’s flavors to stick. Other pastas, such as shells and twists, that have little pockets for dressing to slip into, would also work well enough.
Know what? You’re done! The pasta’s all cooked, the dressing’s made, the bacon is nice and crunchy and the spinach is chopped. Mix it up and have you some BLT Pasta Salad!
We’re so gaga over this salad right now during this Long Hot Summer. We ladies at FFA hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we have. Now I’ve got to go check my pantry and see if I need to get anything else for this to have on hand. It’s a must at the moment!
BLT Pasta Salad
- 1/2 Cup light mayonnaise
- 1 to 1 1/2 Cups grape tomatoes, small diced, juices included
- 4-5 green onions, white and light green parts, thin sliced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced (you can use dried if you prefer)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6-8 slices cooked bacon
- 2 Cups chopped or thin-sliced spinach
- 12 ounces corkscrew pasta, or your favorite shape, cooked al dente
Mix together the mayonnaise, chopped tomatoes, sliced green onions, minced thyme, salt and pepper. This can be done up to two or so hours ahead of time. It tastes better if it’s had time to mingle, but if you don’t have time to do this ahead, it’s OK, just go on to the next step. Refrigerate till ready to use.
Cook bacon – whichever way is best for you is fine. We cooked ours in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, turning once halfway through. Cook until crunchy but not burned.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt boiling water and add pasta, cooking till just al dente. Drain and rinse pasta with cool water, drain again. Set aside.
While pasta is cooking, prepare your spinach. If you want the slender strips we used, layer several leaves of spinach, roll them up and slice from either end with a knife about one quarter inch thick. Do this till you have two or so cups of spinach. Do this part last since cut spinach will begin to wilt faster than whole leaves.
In a large bowl, gently toss the dressing with the pasta and spinach to combine, being sure to evenly coat all the pasta. Serve it up and enjoy!
The above recipe is a guide, really. It’s written out how we like it at my house. If you prefer a different pasta, use it instead. Don’t like grape tomatoes, but enjoy vine-ripened Campari (mm, love those, too, always a nice option for salads)? Great, those are certainly an option. As far as the spinach goes, if you’re not a fan, try some other leafy greens, like romaine. Play around with it and make it how you like.
On prepping the salad and timeliness: The spinach will begin to wilt quicker when sliced or chopped, so try to add it in at the last possible minute. Same for the bacon, which can become less crunchy when left to sit in things like salad dressing. If you’re making this to take to a family get together or work event, consider placing your spinach and bacon bits in separate containers, maybe even all of it, and assemble it all right there. It doesn’t take any time at all to toss everything together; it all very easily incorporates.
Believe it or not, our dad used to do this with a Chinese Chicken Salad that our mom made! She would individually assemble all the cooked/prepped ingredients for him and he would toss it all together at his work events. I was told the office ladies were always quite impressed by this.