To celebrate my older son’s 14th birthday, we had a group of his friends over for a cookout. He chose hamburgers and hot dogs as the main dish and left the rest up to me. His only request: “Please make it something they will all like!”
That was his nice way of asking that I not use this night to experiment with something like cauliflower crust pizza–though he really does love that one–or pull out the quinoa. Since John’s favorite sandwich is a BLT and he adores ranch dressing, I decided a BLT ranch pasta salad would be just the thing–delicious with both kid and adult appeal.
When asked if there was anything else he wanted to munch on, his one request was a fruit rainbow like I had made for his brother’s last birthday. That should balance out the burgers and bacon, right?
While you can use your favorite ranch dressing in this recipe, I love my light but very flavorful Better-For-You Ranch. It can be made ahead and will keep a week or more in the fridge. I also like to cook the pasta and bacon in advance–even the day before. This makes for quick and easy last-minute assembly. Feel free to use whole wheat pasta; rice noodles are a great gluten-free option. Add grilled or rotisserie chicken to turn this into a satisfying main course. Hmmm, a little chopped avocado would be awfully nice, too!
- 16 ounces gemelli pasta (or your pasta of choice, gluten-free if needed), cooked according to package directions and cooled
- 1 pint tomato grapes, halved
- 1 heart of romaine, sliced horizontally
- 12 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled
- Better-For-You Ranch Dressing, or your favorite ranch (1/2-1 cup, depending on whether you like your salad lightly or more liberally tossed)
- one small bunch green onions (or 1/4 cup of fresh chives), chopped
In a large bowl, combine pasta, tomatoes, romaine, and green onions. Pour the ranch dressing over top and toss well.
Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Prior to serving, toss and add another drizzle of dressing, if desired. Add crumbled bacon and serve immediately.
In season, fresh basil is a wonderful addition, either as a garnish or mixed throughout the salad.
- I like to cook the pasta ahead of time and, after draining, toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper and kosher salt. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to finish prepping the salad. This makes the preparation very easy and ensures that the pasta does not absorb too much of the dressing before you are ready to eat.
- In season, add a little chopped basil as a garnish or mix more liberally throughout the salad for a burst of fresh flavor.
- This recipe makes enough for a good-sized crowd and can be cut in half easily.
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We both had for lunch Friday, but it was not as good leftover. I think next time I will have the recipe, or make it when we have company or to take to a potluck.
Lettuce does usually wilt after sitting in the fridge overnight. When making a salad with greens that I want to enjoy for leftovers, I often use a heartier green such as kale or arugula…or leave the lettuce out and mix into the portion currently being served. Also, I often add a little more dressing to the leftovers as the pasta absorbs so much moisture over time. Hope that helps for next time: )
Made for dinner tonight and it is a hit! I had to use shell pasta, since it was all I had. I think I’d like gemelli better though. We have a lot left , so I’m hoping it will be good for lunch tomorrow.
Glad you enjoyed, Mary Lou, and I hope you get a few good lunches out of it!
I will make this with turkey bacon 🙂
Hope you enjoy, Jennifer!
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Love the dressing already and I know I’m going to like this recipe. Thank you my friend for your continuing efforts and wonderful recipes xoxo
Thank YOU for the thoughtful comment, Beverley!!
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Since summer is almost over this will be great for football Sundays!
Nice and easy so I can enjoy the games.
Thank you, Dona! I hope you enjoy!
Just made this salad for the first time and it was a hit! My kids loved it, even my 7 year old who I can’t get to eat any veggies. The entire salad bowl is gone!! Thank you so much for posting this!!!
Thanks so much for the great comment, Silvia! I especially love that your 7-year-old gobbled it up! I have a fall salad favorite that I hope he will like also, coming soon…it is the salad I credit for getting MY kids to eat salads: )
what is your recipe for your “Better-for-you” Ranch dressing?
I created a link to that recipe where the name is highlighted in red. It is not altogether obvious, so here it is again. I do also try to put the recipes in user-friendly categories which are located on the right side of the page. We just finished a jar of the ranch dressing here tonight: )
Looks awesome!!!!!!!!!!! Wish I had a bowl in front of me right now. LOL 🙂
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What a delicious salad! I bet they all loved it! Thanks for sharing this with Summer Salad Sundays, look forward to seeing you again soon!
You are welcome…it was my pleasure and I look forward to seeing more great recipes over your way!
Gorgeous salad! I love the flavors, too!!
This sounds so refreshing and with the pasta, it’d definitely be enough for a meal! Thanks for sharing!
I will try this one, it sounds wonderful, even without the bacon………….Thanks for sharing
You are welcome! Hope you enjoy!