Looking for a side dish everyone will devour? Bacon ranch pasta salad will be a big hit at any table!
Who can resist smoky bacon, cool ranch, and pasta? It’s a match made in heaven.
It’s the perfect creamy side dish for your next big summer BBQ but be warned. Once you bring this to the party once, you’ll be asked to bring it every time. Good thing this recipe is quick and easy, so you get all the praise with little effort.
Let me introduce you to your next favorite side dish.
Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
Creamy bacon ranch pasta salad is a hit with kids and adults alike.
Crispy, smoky bacon is an excellent backdrop to tender pasta and creamy ranch dressing. Plus, the ingredients in the recipe are super simple, affordable, and easy to whip together in a flash.
You can make it for a quick weeknight dinner or bring it to your next potluck or holiday party.
And the great thing about this recipe is that it’s super versatile because ranch dressing goes with everything! Add seasonal veggies or some protein like grilled chicken to make it a complete meal.
Tri-color rotini pasta. This recipe doesn’t incorporate a lot of colorful veggies, so opt for tri-color pasta. Any pasta will work in this recipe, but tri-colored rotini pasta adds bright colors.
Bacon. I like to cook the bacon until it’s super crunchy and crispy. But to save time, you can also use pre-cooked bacon or bacon bits.
Mayonnaise. Any mayo works in this recipe. You can use low-fat mayo or miracle whip to add a rich, creamy component.
Dry ranch salad dressing mix. Since ranch dressing is the star of the show, opt for a good brand like Hidden Valley.
Garlic pepper and garlic powder. The dry ranch seasoning already has garlic in it, but there’s no such thing as too much garlic! Adding garlic pepper and powder gives this pasta salad an extra-potent garlicky kick.
Milk. A little dash of milk helps to make the ranch dressing extra smooth so it oozes into every nook and cranny of the pasta.
Tomato. Tomato gives this pasta salad some serious BLT vibes. It’s a great veggie that helps cool the bold flavors of bacon and garlicky ranch dressing.
Sliced black olives. Adding sliced black olives provides a depth of color. They also offer salty, briny flavors that pair well with bacon and ranch.
Sharp Cheddar cheese. For the best cheesy flavors, use freshly-shredded sharp cheddar cheese. You can use whatever cheese you prefer, but sharp cheddar adds a nice kick to this recipe.
How to Make Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
Check out how quick and easy it is to whip up this fantastic pasta salad!
1. Prepare the pasta. Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook it according to the directions on the back of the box. Drain it and set it aside.
2. Make the bacon. On medium-high heat, place the bacon in a single layer in a large skillet. Cook it until it’s nice and crispy. Drain the excess fat, and chop it into small pieces.
3. Prepare the ranch dressing. Combine the dry ranch seasoning mix, mayonnaise, garlic powder, and garlic pepper in a large bowl. Stir it until smooth, then add milk until it reaches the perfect consistency.
4. Combine all ingredients. Add the pasta, chopped bacon, shredded cheese, tomato, and black and black olives to the ranch dressing. Mix everything until it’s evenly coated with the dressing.
5. Chill. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour. Add a little extra milk if the pasta salad seems dry. Enjoy!
Tips for the Best Pasta Salad
Here are a few quick tips to ensure your pasta salad is perfect.
Don’t toss all the bacon fat. Reserve some extra bacon fat and add it to the ranch dressing for additional bacon flavors. It’s not the healthiest tip, but it adds lovely flavors to this dish!
Chill for more than one hour. Chilling the pasta salad for one hour is the bare minimum. If you store it in the fridge overnight, all those rich flavors marry together like a dream.
Add more milk as needed. The pasta will soak up much of the ranch dressing as it chills. If your pasta salad seems a little dried out, add a splash of milk to make it creamy again.
This recipe is just the jumping-off point. There are tons of ways to jazz up this fantastic side dish.
Make it a meal. Adding protein is a great way to transform this simple side into a full meal. Add leftover grilled chicken, cubed ham, turkey, or deli meat. Remember: everything goes with ranch!
Add more veggies. For more crunch and added nutrition, add in more veggies. Some great additions include broccoli, corn, cauliflower, peas, spinach, peppers, or red onion.
Healthy hacks. While bacon isn’t exactly healthy, there are ways to make this pasta salad healthier. Try adding Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise or low-fat mayo.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
Bacon ranch pasta salad only gets better with time. Preparing everything the night before helps save time and will make this side dish taste even better.
Once prepared, this pasta salad will stay nice and fresh for up to 4 to 5 days. It’s important to note that the pasta will absorb some of the ranch dressing as it chills. If your salad seems dry, toss in some more milk.
Sadly, this pasta salad isn’t a good candidate for freezing. But that’s ok! It’s so good, you likely won’t have leftovers.
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