I love pasta salad (and long before that, I loved a good old-fashioned Midwestern “macaroni salad” made with no-nonsense elbow macaroni, fairly heavy on the mustard and bits of green pepper and onion to add some crunch.) For years, I have been in search of THE pasta salad recipe that I could turn to time and time again. Something that harkened back to those familiar flavors, but fresh and new with its own unique seasonings and texture.
Last summer, I encountered a recipe for a “BLT pasta salad” that was an ensemble of tomatoes, shredded romaine, bacon bits and ranch dressing. It was good and creamy, but a little bland.
A few weeks ago, I tossed together some Italian dressing, tomatoes, corkscrew pasta, diced red pepper and fresh-grated Parmesan. Not bad, but it still didn’t quite hit the mark.
So I invited my thinking cap to brainstorm with my tastebuds. After conferring, they suggested I combine the zip of the Italian dressing with the creaminess of the traditional mayonnaise-based dressing, and thus my own Bacon-Tomato Pasta Salad was born.
Bacon-Tomato Pasta Salad
1/2 cup Italian dressing (I used a homemade version of Olive Garden’s from this recipe)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (you could use half mayo and half Greek yogurt or sour cream to lighten it up a bit)
1 cup tomatoes, washed and drained*
2 cups cooked pasta (I used tricolor corkscrew, but radiator or fusilli would be great, too)
6 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
Coarse-cracked pepper, to taste
*I left my grape tomatoes whole so the leftovers wouldn’t be weepy, but cut tomatoes are fine if the entire salad will be consumed in one sitting.
Cook pasta in salted water to al dente; rinse with cool water and drain thoroughly. Cook bacon to crisp; cool and crumble; set aside.
In a medium-size bowl combine the Italian dressing and mayonnaise or mayo and yogurt/sour cream mixture. Add all ingredients; stir to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld. (If you opt to refrigerate it first, you can hold back some of the bacon crumbles and use them to top the salad to keep the crispy texture.) Makes 6 servings.