Bacon Pea Pasta Salad recipe is a summertime favorite! Loaded with bacon, peas, creamy goat cheese and a basil vinaigrette - NO MAYO! It's quick and easy to make, can be made in advance and served warm or cold!Recipe can be scaled up or down by using the slider if you hover your mouse over the number of Servings.
12ouncesuncooked Cavatappi or Macaroni Pasta- or other small pasta of choice
12ouncesfrozen Sweet Peas – thawed (SEE NOTES)
6ouncesGoat Cheese – crumbled, divided
8-10SlicesCenter Cut Bacon – cooked until crisp & crumbled
2/3CupRed Onion – finely chopped (about 1/2 small red onion)
Kosher Salt & Ground Black Pepper
Dressing: (yield - 1 1/2 cup)
1CupExtra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2CupFresh Basil Leaves – packed and finely chopped, plus more for garnish
6TBSFreshly-squeezed Lemon Juice
6TBSParmesan Cheese – finely grated, plus more for garnish
Optional for Garnish: Finely grated Parmesan, Sliced Chives
Cook the pasta and peas: Add 12 cups of water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Add 2 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt to the water. (SEE NOTE). Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook 2 MINUTES SHY OF AL DENTE according to package directions. During the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, add the peas and continue to cook until pasta is just al dente and peas are bright green.
Drain pasta and peas: Transfer the pasta and peas to a colander. Rinse under cold water for 30 seconds to stop the cooking process. Gently shake the colander to remove as much water as possible. (SEE NOTES)
While the pasta is cooking, make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dressing. Season with 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a scant 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper (SEE NOTES).
Coat the pasta with dressing + cheese (SEE NOTES): Place the warm cooked pasta and peas in a large bowl. Add in HALF of the dressing and HALF of the goat cheese. Toss continuously until the goat cheese coats the pasta.
To serve immediately: Let the pasta sit on the counter for 15 minutes to cool completely before adding thebacon, onions and remaining goat cheese. Drizzle with more dressing to taste and gently toss until evenly combined. Sprinkle with parmesan and chives. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
To serve later: Add the red onions to the pasta and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Store the remaining dressing in an airtight container. Refrigerate both until ready to serve. When ready to serve, add the bacon and remaining goat cheese. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and gently toss to combine. Sprinkle with parmesan and chives if desired. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Enjoy.
Peas: Quickly thaw the peas by placing them in a colander and rinsing them with cool water.
Salting Pasta Water: Do NOT heavily salt the water for the pasta. While pasta needs a lot of salt when cooking, the peas can become overly salty!
Cook pasta to AL DENTE: Take care to NOT overcook your pasta. Al dente pasta still has a little bite to it which helps ensure the pasta salad doesn’t get soggy.
Rinsing Cooked Pasta: While you need to run cool water over the cooked pasta and peas to stop the cooking process, make sure you don’t allow the pasta to become completely cool. Just quickly rinse the pasta and peas - about 30 seconds! The pasta should be a little warm when you add the dressing and half of the goat cheese. Warm pasta absorbs the vinaigrette better. As well, the warm pasta will gently melt the goat cheese and form a light sauce to coat the pasta.
Dressing: You may not need all the dressing depending upon how "wet" or "dry" you like your pasta. I tend to use about 3/4 of the dressing. I save the remaining dressing and use it on the leftovers as the pasta tends to become dried during refrigeration.
Seasoning Dressing: Always taste and adjust things to your liking, this is especially true with the dressing. If you like a sweeter dressing, add more honey. If you like more tang, add more lemon or add a splash of white wine vinegar. If you like a more nutty-salty flavor, add more parmesan cheese. If you want a little heat, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
Dressing Storage: The dressing can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Recipe Serves: 8-10Nutritional information is an approximation based upon 8 servings. Exact information will depend upon the brands of ingredients and precise measurements used.