Summer’s officially over before I’m even getting a chance to tell you about the salad that’s been on repeat all summer over here. It’s still hot enough here for barbecues, but if it’s not where you are, you’re going to have to put this in your back pocket for next year.
With two kids who don’t really like meat, and two who can’t reliably chew lettuce without choking on it, summer barbecues can be a challenge of wondering what my kids will eat besides hot dog buns and chips. This salad is a perfect solution – bacon is one meat that’s always a hit, and it’s easy to pick out the pasta from the lettuce so they get familiar-looking noodles and there’s still lots of salad for everyone else!
I’ve brought this pasta/lettuce salad to a handful of barbecues this year, and it disappeared every time. Most people love Caesar salad, and adding pasta to it brings it up a level in terms of texture, flavour, appearance, and fillingness. Caesar salad generally loses all appeal for me while I’m pregnant, but with a few additional ingredients like this it’s back in the good books.
This is a party and dinner winner because it can be prepped well in advance. Cook and crumble the bacon, cook the pasta and toss with some of the bacon drippings, combine them with fresh Parmesan and some pepper, and dress it all generously with Caesar dressing. I always leave an extra scoop of dressing on top of the noodle mixture that’s not tossed in, so all I have to do is bring the chopped, washed lettuce in a separate container or bag and then toss it all together when it’s time to serve.
I love a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and sprinkle of diced red onion tossed with the bacon and pasta, but they’re totally optional and not recommended if you want it to be maximally kid-friendly. You can also add croutons for a real Caesar salad feel, but I tend to leave them on the side since otherwise any leftovers will have soggy croutons ruining the mood. A perfect addition to steak, burgers, and chicken, or a hearty, satisfying cold dinner on a hot day.
In case you’re having a sense of deja vu, I did post a very similar salad early on in my blogging days! (Man, only one child, and that one so little!) Somehow I forgot about this recipe and didn’t make it at all in the past couple years, so I was thrilled to remember it again this year. It’s such a winner I thought it deserved a new feature with updated pictures and instructions for the way I’ve been making it lately in case you might’ve forgotten about it too :)
Now I’m off to search the archives for other gems I’ve forgotten about…
- 1-2 cups uncooked pasta (depends how many you're feeding - we like rotini or farfalle/bowties and 2 cups feeds 4 as a main dish, 8-10 as a side dish)
- 8 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
- 1 tsp olive oil
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
- 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped and washed
- Caesar dressing
- Black pepper
- Cook bacon until fairly crisp. Remove bacon to paper-towel lined plate but KEEP the grease.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta is ready, drain thoroughly. Transfer to large serving bowl and toss with the warm bacon grease and 1 tsp olive oil. (This adds tons of flavour and also helps keep the pasta from clumping together). Add in about ⅓ cup of Caesar dressing and the chopped or crumbled bacon and mix well, then add Parmesan cheese and tomatoes, if using, and toss gently.
- At this point, you can let it cool before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating until serving time, at which point you add the lettuce and more Caesar dressing and pepper to taste.
- To serve immediately (pasta will be warm, but that's ok), toss in lettuce and additional dressing and season to taste with pepper.