Bacon, Pesto Pasta Salad

A twist on the traditional pasta salad, this bacon, pesto pasta salad should liven up any tailgate.

Recipe excerpted from Simply Done, Well Done (John Wiley & Sons Publishing), by Aaron McCargo Jr.

I used to cater from my restaurant four or five years ago, and when Rutgers University in Camden asked for some salads for a catering gig, I came up with this one. It’s loosely based on a turkey wrap I made for the restaurant, although there is no wrap in sight. The longer this salad sits, the better it tastes, so this is a good one to make ahead of time. —Aaron McCargo Jr.

Makes 6-8 Servings

  • 1 pound rotini pasta
  • 8 slices cooked crispy bacon crumbled
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup roasted red pepper strips (two 4-ounce jars)
  • 1/2 cup red onion thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic freshly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper freshly ground
  • 1 cup olive oil

1. In a medium saucepan, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain, transfer to a dish to cool to room temperature. The pasta can be chilled until ready to use.

2. In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the bacon, parmesan, roasted peppers, onion and sundried tomatoes.

3. In food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the basil with the lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper until well mixed. Slowly drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube into the pesto and pulse until smooth.

4. Spoon the pesto over the pasta mixture and toss until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours to give the flavors time to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature, garnished with parmesan.

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