Caesar BLT Pasta Salad

August 5, 2012

Caesar BLT Pasta Salad

This is another super simple and delicious summertime pasta salad.

I don’t normally eat much pasta; but there’s something about the Summer that makes me want to experiment with different cold pasta salads. (And, I’ll admit that I’ve never really been a fan of cold pasta salads.)

We have a lot of cookouts with friends in the Summer and not only are pasta salads easy to throw together, but they also feed big crowds and are a perfect side dish for grilled chicken, fish or burgers.

Last weekend I took Bry’s favorite Angel Hair Pasta Salad to his birthday celebration with the family and several of his hungry fellow sailors. It was a hit, as usual, but we managed to save one small dish of leftovers for the birthday boy. :-)

The Seashells with basil, tomato, and garlic pasta salad that I made for our 4th of July celebration was also a huge hit with all our friends and with a lot of our readers. A big thanks to all our new readers that found us via Pinterest!

I found the original recipe for the BLT Pasta Salad on Food Network; but I adapted it, like I always do.  I don’t know why, but I just can’t follow a recipe exactly as written. I’ll read it a couple of times for inspiration and will almost always change it up.

I decided to nix the milk, sour cream and mayo in the original recipe and try some yummy Caesar dressing instead. Then I thought I might as well throw in some black olives and Parmesan to make it more like a Caesar salad.

It did not disappoint.

Caesar BLT Pasta Salad
(adapted from Food Network)

16 oz. mini farfalle (bowties)
1 lb. bacon
1 pint sugar plum tomatoes, sliced
1 c. Gardini’s Caesar dressing
1 c. sliced black olives
1/2 c. parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
Juice of one lemon
4 c. chopped romaine lettuce

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water to al dente, then drain. (I cooked mine the night before and tossed it with the olive oil and lemon juice and marinated it in the refrigerator overnight.) This keeps the pasta from sticking together.

Cut the bacon into bite size pieces and cook in a large skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Discard the bacon grease; leaving just a tablespoon or so in the skillet. Add the sliced tomatoes and minced garlic and toss in the skillet for just a couple of minutes to cook the garlic and soften the tomatoes. Remove from heat and let sit until cool.

Since the pasta is nice and cold from being refrigerated overnight; just mix in the Caesar dressing, bacon, tomato mixture, olives and Parmesan, then toss in the chopped lettuce at the end and it’s ready to go! Serve at room temperature.

Again; simple and delicious.

Note: I’ve made plenty of pasta salads with spinach but this is the first time that I’ve made one with lettuce; and, at first, I was a bit skeptical as to how it would turn out.  But, my hungry, meat and potato eatin’ guys raved about it and all my friends loved it.

Obviously, you want to serve this salad pretty soon after it’s made so the lettuce doesn’t get all limp and wilted; but we snacked on it hours later and it was still very good.

I really hope you’ll try this one. Enjoy!

BigSis’ Vegan Twist:  Adios to the bacon and parmesan for starters. I wouldn’t sub a faux bacon, since most that I’ve tried wouldn’t stay crispy in a moist salad. Many aren’t vegan anyway. To replace the salty flavors from the bacon and cheese, I’d use a really flavorful kalamata olive, some capers, and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

We also need to cut the Caesar dressing since anchovies are part of the traditional recipe. We definitely want the Caesar flavors in this recipe but without the fishies, so we can make our own dressing or buy one. I think this recipe for vegan Caesar salad dressing sounds awesome. Follow Your Heart makes a vegan Caesar salad dressing if you don’t want to make your own. That should do it!

~LilSis

Seashells with basil, tomatoes, and garlic

July 8, 2012

Seashell pasta salad with basil, tomatoes, and garlic

This seashell pasta dish was a big hit at our 4th of July gathering and it’s perfect for any outdoor cookout or picnic!  For outdoor get-togethers, I prefer to take side dishes that don’t have to be kept warm or cold; just to make it easier. Since this one doesn’t have any mayo, it’s perfect served at room temperature.

Seashells with basil, tomatoes, and garlic
(adapted from Sunset Magazine, June 2012)

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
3/4 t. sea salt
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 pt. small cherry or teardrop tomatoes (I used sugar plums)
1 lb medium seashell pasta
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, shaved
1/2 c. thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Combine oil, garlic, pepper flakes and salt and simmer on very low heat for 5 minutes or so; being careful not to burn the garlic.  Slice half of the tomatoes and stir the tomatoes into the mixture and simmer another 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and place in a large bowl. Place the other half of the sliced tomatoes into the mixture and stir. Let stand for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (Raw tomatoes get juicy as they stand, which helps create the sauce.)

Meanwhile, cook pasta as package directs for al dente  in a large pot of salted water. When done, drain and toss pasta with tomato mixture, then with the cheese and all but 1 tbsp. basil. Sprinkle remaining basil on top and season with a little salt, to taste.

Voila! Super simple, healthy and delicious. I got so many compliments on this salad that I’ll definitely be making it again. :-)

Note: If you want to make this even easier, the original recipe from Sunset didn’t call for simmering the garlic or tomatoes; they were just tossed all in a bowl to stand. Since I feel like some people don’t enjoy raw garlic and I added the red pepper flakes to the recipe, I wanted to try simmering them all together before letting it stand and it worked out great.

Enjoy!

BigSis’ Vegan Twist:  This recipe would be a piece of cake to veganize. All you have to do is cut the parmesan and make sure that your pasta doesn’t have any eggs in it (most doesn’t). You could add a cubed vegan cheese, but what I would probably do instead is add some sliced kalamata olives. You’d get nice briny flavor from the ollies, plus great color contrast. I’m thinking that drained capers and snipped chives would also be really tasty.

~LilSis