BLT Pasta Salad with mayo and ranch seasoning (making Ranch dressing) is the one salad that needs to make it to your BBQ picnics this year. With fresh tomatoes, crunchy bacon, and homemade ranch flavor, the only question you will have is why didn’t I make more!
There is nothing I love more than a hearty salad with bits of flavors, textures and colors mixed in.
If I had to rank pasta salad favorites, it’s definitely this BLT Pasta salad with ranch as number one, but you can totally round it out with mandarin salad, Italian pasta salad or tri color pasta salad with Italian dressing, for a serious trio of flavors that will knock your socks off.
Why this recipe works
Can be made ahead: As with most pasta salad and macaroni salad, this BLT salad tastes better made ahead of time and put in the fridge to chill. Then give your pasta salad a good mix up before serving and it really has had time to soak up all the robust ranch flavors that you get to enjoy in every bite.
Everyone loves bacon: Bacon and Ranch? Say no more! This salad takes the famed flavors of BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) and creates it in salad form. The pasta keeps it filling, the veggies keep it delicious.
Potluck Friendly: Because this recipe can be doubled easily, its potluck, cookout, picnic and party friendly.
This Ranch BLT Pasta salad is also a great potluck dish and can really serve quite a few if you double or triple this recipe (as most pasta dishes do).
Here are what ingredients you need to gather to get started:
- small shells pasta
- fresh spinach & arugula
- red onion
- real mayonnaise
- ranch dressing (dry powder)
- salt and pepper
Additional Variation Ingredients: Want a more robust salad? Chunks of mild cheddar cheese or cold peas make a great addition to this BLT pasta salad. Both go great with ranch and bring a new flavor.
Ranch dressing: I like homemade ranch dressing which is why we use dry powder and mayo for a homemade taste. You could easily substitute for pre-made ranch dressing but I think it takes away from the final dish. You can buy ranch seasoning in a can and we leave ours in the fridge so we can make homemade dressing any time we want. Its in a green can and usually on the top shelf at the supermarket dressing aisle. Or simply change up the ranch dressing for something more unique like Homemade Green Goddess Dressing.
Changing Pasta Types: When it comes to pasta salads, the most popular bits of pasta are shells, macaroni’s, and penne. The shape and thickness of the pasta can really change HOW a salad tastes and how the flavors are soaked up. Outside of classic macaroni salad noodles, mini small shells are probably my favorite. They are great for small bites, which means you get plenty of “extras” in each spoonful.
Easy to make in Advance: Pasta salads are best when cold. I would recommend making a pasta salad portion and leaving out the lettuce and bacon just prior to serving. Both will get softer once in the fridge. Just take out, give it a good stir, and add crunchy bacon and lettuce to finalize.
How to make Ranch BLT Pasta Salad
Step 1: Cook shell pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Let pasta shells cool completely.
Steps 2-6: Add chopped arugula or spinach, chopped tomato, diced onion and fresh chopped bacon to a mixing bowl and mix well.
Step 7: Add mayonnaise and Hidden Valley Ranch seasonings. The mixture of these two make a ranch dressing coating. Mix well to evenly coat and combine all your pasta, veggie and dressing as one.
Step 8: Refrigerate your salad for 4 hours or overnight to really marinate the flavors. Stir salad well before serving topped with remaining crumbled bacon for an extra crunch (optional)
More Bacon, please!
While this pasta salad has a lot of bacon already inside of it, making extra bacon to leave on top is a perfect additive for not only for extra bacon flavor but also a beautiful topping prior to serving. Say yes to more bacon!
Yes, pasta shells can be made in advance. Just rinse with cold water prior to finishing out the salad so it’s not sticky and then move onto the rest of the recipe.
As with most salads, they are fairly easy to change up with other fresh ingredients. Try removing bacon for turkey bacon, adding pieces of cut ripe avocado, boiled eggs, red onions, peas, or chunks of cheese.
I am a big fan of adding proteins to recipes to make them dinner salads. This salad would be fine with cooked shrimp, freshly baked or grilled chicken breast or even pieces of steak.
Anytime you add dressing to a salad, it has a super limited time in the fridge. As with most salads that contain lettuce, the lettuce will wilt quite quickly. If you keep the pasta portion and lettuce portion separate and only combine when ready to serve, the pasta will keep for up to 3 days. Combined lettuce and pasta will be soggy and therefore not as tasty, but should keep for at least a day. Any additives, like avocado or chicken, can change the shelf life as well.
The dried Ranch seasoning and mayo create a really great Ranch dressing that smothers the salad, but you can also use sour cream or unflavored Greek yogurt in place of mayo if needed. Additionally, it’s fine to skip the ranch seasoning + mayo in place of bottled Ranch dressing. Just drizzle a bit at a time till happy with the amount. I will always say there is nothing better than homemade ranch dressing but in a pinch, there are alternatives.
Typically easy pasta salads like this are served at cookouts and potlucks, but if you are making a whole meal, try burgers, ribs or pulled pork for a great match.
Anytime pasta is put in the fridge it dries out just a bit. Add a bit more dressing or mayo to the batch and stir and that should breathe some new life.
I get it – some people do not love ranch. You can change up the dressing to Zesty Italian Dressing if you find that ranch isn’t your thing. It’s not the same exact salad, but better have flavors you love and Italian dressing goes just fine with the pasta and vegetable flavors.
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BLT Pasta Salad with Ranch
- 8 ounces - small shells pasta, uncooked
- 2 cups chopped fresh spinach & arugula
- 1 to mato - chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 4 slices bacon - cooked and crumbled, plus 1 slice for topping
- 1 cup real mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon ranch seasoning - dry powder
- salt and pepper
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Let cool completely.
- Add spinach, tomato, onion and bacon to a mixing bowl and mix well. Add mayonnaise and ranch dressing.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Mix well to evenly coat and combine. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight so flavors can really mix.
- Stir well before serving topped with remaining crumbled bacon.