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.
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- This dish is the ideal side for your next summer barbecue, especially when served alongside favorites like Barbecue Rubbed Country Ribs.
- 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.
- I prefer the rich and tangy flavors in Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise for this recipe. However, if you prefer the sweeter and zesty flavors found in salad dressings, try using Miracle Whip.
- 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.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider leaving a comment and star rating below. It’s always refreshing to hear how others like a recipe, find success with it, or tweak to suit. I’d love to hear from you!