Summer BLT Pasta Salad Recipe

Pasta salad can refer to a wide range of dishes with various dressings in America. Like the ubiquitous barbecue dish macaroni salad, many pasta salads are tossed with a mayonnaise-based dressing. This type is heavy and tends to congeal a bit after a few hours on the food table. May we offer an alternative? Pasta salad can also refer to a salad that's heavy on the greens and light on the dressing, with cooked and cooled pasta serving as a base ingredient. 

In this version from recipe developer Taylor Murray, a simple lemon and olive oil dressing adds flavor and moisture to a big bowl of greens, tomatoes, and herbs, and it's all crowned with a generous shower of chopped crispy bacon. It's like a classic BLT sandwich in salad form, only it swaps bread for pasta and does away with the mayonnaise altogether. This lighter version of the classic pasta salad is satisfying and crisp — perfect for a summer day!

Gather the ingredients for BLT pasta salad

As with any pasta salad recipe, the foundational ingredient is going to be pasta. For this recipe, we are using cavatappi, which is easy to spear with a fork and eat in one bite, though you could easily swap this with other shapes, such as penne or farfalle. A fresh pasta salad like this leans heavily on its few ingredients, so source some ripe, in-season cherry tomatoes and crisp, spicy mixed greens. For the bacon, a thick-cut, uncured applewood smoked bacon is the best choice so that it still has some heft after cooking. To add flavor, we are using a mix of fresh green herbs, namely basil, chives, parsley, and dill.

Finally, to dress the salad, we are using a mix of olive oil and lemon juice with its zest. If you can, use a flavorful olive oil meant to be eaten raw, and make sure that it's extra-virgin.

Step 1: Boil water

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Step 2: Cook the pasta

‌Cook the pasta per the package directions.

Step 3: Drain and rinse

Drain and rinse with cool water.

Step 4: Toss with oil

Toss with the olive oil and refrigerate.

Step 5: Heat the oven

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 F.

Step 6: Cook the bacon

Roast the bacon until crisp and browned, about 12 minutes.

Step 7: Drain and cool

Drain and cool before roughly chopping.

Step 8: Toss the salad ingredients

When you're ready to serve, toss the pasta with the cherry tomatoes, lettuce greens, and herbs.

Step 9: Dress with lemon

Zest and juice the lemon into the pasta salad.

Step 10: Season, to taste

Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Step 11: Add bacon, and serve

Top with the cooked bacon pieces.

Summer BLT Pasta Salad Recipe
No Ratings
For your next picnic, cookout, or other summer party, make this bright pasta salad, which mimics a BLT sandwich and veers lighter than mayo-based pasta salads.
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
26
minutes
Servings
8
servings
Bowl of BLT pasta salad
Total time: 36 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cavatappi
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ pound thick-sliced bacon
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups mixed lettuce greens
  • ⅓ cup chopped parsley
  • ⅓ cup sliced basil
  • ¼ cup chopped dill
  • ¼ cup sliced chives
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. ‌Cook the pasta per the package directions.
  3. Drain and rinse with cool water.
  4. Toss with the olive oil and refrigerate.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 F.
  6. Roast the bacon until crisp and browned, about 12 minutes.
  7. Drain and cool before roughly chopping.
  8. When you're ready to serve, toss the pasta with the cherry tomatoes, lettuce greens, and herbs.
  9. Zest and juice the lemon into the pasta salad.
  10. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  11. Top with the cooked bacon pieces.
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How can you pick the best bacon for a BLT salad?

While you could use any type of bacon for this recipe, selecting the right kind will improve the desired final texture and flavor of the dish. First, search for medium- to thick-cut bacon, as it provides a satisfying crunch once cooked that contrasts nicely with the crisp lettuce and juicy tomatoes. Look for high-quality bacon from reputable brands or local butchers, preferably with minimal additives and preservatives for a cleaner taste (remember that uncured bacon will have little to no synthetic nitrates!). A balanced smokiness, such as applewood- or hickory-smoked bacon, adds a rich, savory depth without overpowering the salad. 

Ensure that the bacon has a good ratio of meat to fat; too much fat can make the salad greasy, while too little can result in dry, less flavorful pieces. Freshness is, of course, crucial, so check the expiration date and the packaging for any signs of spoilage. If you're feeling adventurous, consider trying a flavored bacon variety, such as maple or peppered.

What are some tips for preparing pasta salad ahead of time?

This pasta salad recipe serves a crowd, which makes it a great option to bring to a party. In that case, you may be curious about preparing it ahead of time. The ingredients in this salad are delicate and prone to wilting, so you have to take extra care when preparing this recipe in advance. First, prepare the pasta as directed, but stop once the oiled pasta is in the refrigerator. Roast the bacon as directed, but keep it to the side so that it can retain its crispy texture. 

The greens and herbs wilt easily, so they should be kept cold and refrigerated until the last second. Finally, the lemon dressing is acidic and will start to wilt the greens as soon as it touches the dish, so keep the dressing off for as long as possible. Store the ingredients in airtight containers in the refrigerator, then mix them together and give it all a good toss before serving.