Broccoli Bacon Pasta Salad

Annete's Cooking

This simple pasta salad features fresh broccoli and bacon in a creamy homemade dressing. The sweet and zesty flavors create the perfect — and a crowd-pleasing favorite — side dish for potlucks, barbecues, and dinner any day of the week.

Broccoli Bacon Pasta Salad

When I made this for my niece’s wedding shower this past weekend, I wasn’t sure how well it would taste. That’s because I accidently used the wide, pouring side of the black pepper container instead of the shaker side (oops!). The abundance of pepper along with the last-minute addition of dried cranberries gave me pause.

As it turned out, though, the combination of ingredients blended well to create an amazingly good salad. The sweet and tangy flavors of the light, creamy dressing combined with cheese tortellini, fresh broccoli, smoky bacon, red onions, and cranberries were delicious together.

This salad came together very quickly. You can create it in the time it takes to prepare a package of pasta. And it makes an excellent side dish for family meals any day of the week or as a make ahead dish for your next potluck dinner or backyard barbecue.

Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Worry-Free Cooking | Annette's Cooking Worry-Free Cooking
  • An 8-quart stock pot with a strainer insert is the perfect tool for the task of cooking the tortellini pasta for this recipe. The insert helps to avoid overhandling of the delicate pasta. Just lift the strainer when it’s done and move right to mixing bowl when ready.
  • Having a mixing bowl with a lid, like the Pyrex glass mixing bowl, is ideal for making this salad. Simply put the lid on after mixing all the ingredients and pop it in the fridge until serving time. Couldn’t be easier.
  • I love using my large wooden slotted spoon from this three-piece wooden utensil set to mix the ingredients in this salad. The wooden spoon is sturdy enough to get the job done without mashing all the ingredients.
  • You’ll want to use a good long-handled whisk to prepare the homemade dressing in this salad. It’ll help to create the creamy texture and avoid the clumps mayonnaise tends to have when mixed with other ingredients.
Menu Planning | Annette's Cooking Menu Planning
  • The magical flavors in this salad get even better when given time to rest in the refrigerator. That means it’s the ideal make ahead side dish for potlucks, summer days, and busy nights.
  • No need to limit this cold pasta salad to warm, summer days. This salad is good any time of the year and on any day of the week.
  • Pasta salad will last up to five days in the fridge if stored in an airtight container. Keep an eye on the broccoli, though — once it gets soggy, it’s time to toss.
Helping Hand | Annette's Cooking Helping Hand
  • You can easily substitute healthier options like whole wheat cheese tortellini or turkey bacon without altering the overall flavors in this salad.
  • Instead of on the stovetop, you can easily cook your bacon in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Place bacon on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes or until browned and crisp. Transfer cooked bacon to plate covered in paper towel to drain. Chop bacon into half-inch pieces while still a little warm.
  • If you’re in a hurry or don’t have time to cook the bacon, real bacon bits make a good substitute. These hickory smoked bits work great. Use a cup of the bits in place of the freshly cooked bacon.
  • Don’t forget to save your bacon grease using a stainless grease strainer and container. While it may sound strange to save grease, it’s an incredibly effortless — and inexpensive — way to add smoky, savory flavors to future dishes.
Broccoli Bacon Pasta Salad

Broccoli Bacon Pasta Salad

Recipe by Annette (•‿•)

This pasta salad perfectly balances the sweet and zesty flavors in a homemade dressing with the crunch of broccoli, tortellini, smoky bacon, and dried cranberries. It’s a crowd-pleasing side dish that’s an excellent choice for potlucks, backyard barbecues, and dinner any day of the week.

Course: Salads, SidesCuisine: American


Prep time


Cooking time


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  • 1 pound 1 cheese tortellini

  • 8 – 10 slices 8 – 10 bacon

  • 2 heads 2 fresh broccoli, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 1 medium 1 red onion, chopped

  • 2/3 cup 2/3 dried cranberries

  • Dressing
  • 1/4 cup 1/4 red wine vinegar

  • 1/8 cup 1/8 white sugar

  • 1 cup 1 mayonnaise

  • 1 teaspoon 1 black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon 1 salt

  • 1 teaspoon 1 lemon juice


  • Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl until creamy. Set aside.
  • Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cool water, and set aside.
  • Place the bacon slices in a large, deep skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally. Cook about 10 minutes or until evenly browned. Transfer cooked bacon to plate covered in paper towel to drain. Chop bacon into half-inch pieces while still a little warm.
  • Place chopped bacon in a large mixing bowl. Add the broccoli, cooked tortellini, onions, and dried cranberries. Pour dressing over the salad mixture and gently toss to distribute the dressing throughout.
  • Cover the bowl and put in the fridge to blend flavors and cool.  
  • Gently re-toss the salad when ready to eat.
  • Serve and enjoy!

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