BLT pasta salad brings the classic bacon, lettuce (in this case arugula) and tomatoes together in a hot dinner main dish or side that’s filling and satisfying. Add some cooked chicken to round out the meal and you have so much more than your typical bowl of pasta.Jump to Recipe
Pasta salad gets boring, doesn’t it? So many times it’s the same heavy sauce or mayonnaise, always served cold and it seems like there’s usually ranch involved too.
If you’d like to level up your pasta salad game and do it in a way that makes a main dish you can serve to guests with almost no work involved, this BLT pasta salad is it.
This salad is warm–not cold–and is meant to be served as soon as its made for the best flavor. It does warm up well, but honestly it’s gross cold because the bacon grease used to sautee the tomatoes will firm up.
This is a dinner salad, y’all.
To make this BLT pasta for dinner, you could add more protein like shredded cooked chicken or throw some shrimp in the mix. Steak sliced on top would also be delicious.
For best results, take the 15 or so minutes it takes to make this and talk with your dinner guests while you cook. Serve it up as soon as it’s done.
Handy tip: Save some pasta water
Catch some of your pasta water in a measuring cup when you drain your pasta and use it to thin your sauce once everything is added. The starch in the water helps make the dish feel creamy.
But if you want to make this salad ahead…
Cook everything but leave out the arugula until you are ready to serve. Let the dish cool then transfer to an air tight container and place it in the fridge for up to three days.
Reheat in a skillet and once hot add the arugula and parmesan and serve.
How to make BLT pasta salad step by step
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente; drain and set aside.
Chop then cook the bacon until rendered and crispy. Set aside to drain, reserving a bit of the bacon fat.
Add the garlic and tomatoes to the hot bacon fat and sautee until the tomatoes begin to soften and burst and the garlic is fragrant. The tomato juice that leaks out will keep the garlic from burning.
Add the pasta, bacon and arugula and stir. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water to help create a sauce that coats the pasta. Serve warm with a grating of parmesan cheese.
Other pasta shapes that work in this salad
This salad would be really nice with a thin spaghetti or vermicelli. It would feel less like a salad and more like a meal with that I think.
Variations you can make
- Pasta–Gluten free works great here. You can also use a lentil or chickpea version but make sure to get an organic brand. Chickpeas are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Any shape of pasta is also fine to use. Just cook it to al dente according to the package
- Change the green–Arugula is a little bit spicy and peppery. Some people even say it’s bitter. I find that in this recipe once it’s wilted a bit the flavor is wonderful but you can leave it out or use baby spinach instead.
- Tomatoes–Sun dried tomatoes would be a nice addition to this dish, though I would not leave out the fresh cherry ones. If you are making this recipe in winter, be sure to only use cherry. Large tomatoes have zero flavor during cold months when they are out of season.
- Bacon–I prefer an uncured, sugar free bacon but you could also use turkey bacon here. You won’t have any fat in the pan to use in the rest of the recipe so you’d need to drop in a bit of butter or avocado oil to help the dish loosen up.
What to serve with BLT salad
This is so close to an all-in-one meal but here are some great ideas:
BLT pasta salad
- 6 ounces bacon diced into about 1/4 pieces (or as close as you can get it)
- 1/2 pound cavatappi or any other short pasta 1/2 box
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 3 cups fresh arugula mixed greens or baby spinach
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese none of that powdered stuff!
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup water left over from cooking the pasta
- Bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the pasta and cook until just tender–about 11 minutes (check your box).
- In a non stick pan, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.
- Remove all the grease from the pan but 2 tablespoons.
- Add the garlic and the tomatoes and sauté until just softened, about 2 minutes.
- When the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the tomatoes and garlic, add the bacon back in and add the arugula or lettuce of your choice. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, parmesan and the pasta water and toss to combine. Serve warm or room temperature, but not cold.