You can read the whole story of my experience with Crouton Cups and Pasta Salad here, but I thought I would share my recipe for my favorite pasta salad. I’m not a fan of salads made with mayonnaise, so I like the freshness of this one. It’s pretty quick to make and goes quickly at every event I take it too.
Italian Dressing – I have always used Wishbone Robusto Italian Dressing but this past one, I used Olive Garden’s Italian Dressing because that’s what Sam’s Club had and I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I liked it ok but will stick with the Wishbone in the future. If you’re a fan of Olive Garden, you’ll like either one.
Bacon – Just eliminate if you want vegetarian style
Colby Jack Cheese – I do the block of cheese from Sam’s Club and cut it to save some money, but you can also buy the cubes. You can mix sharp cheddar cubes and Colby Jack cubes as well.
If you use the block cheese, I highly recommend a great cheese knife. I use the wavy pampered chef one, but couldn’t find it on their site to share, so not sure if it’s still available.
I throw the bacon on my Pampered Chef bar pan on 350 degrees. After about 20-25 minutes, I check it. For this salad, you’ll want it more on the crispy side, so it may take a little longer or shorter depending on your oven and how crispy you want it.
While the bacon is in the oven, I start my water to boiling. Prepare your pasta to the directions on the box. Drain and rinse with cold water.
In a large bowl, add about a quarter of the dressing to the pasta.
Peel the cucumber and cut into small bite size pieces. I generally quarter it lengthwise then slice it. Add to the pasta, stir.
Next add your cheese. Again, bite size. Big enough to taste the cheese though. Stir in about another quarter of the dressing bottle at this time.
Stir well then cover and place in the refrigerator until the bacon cools and you can add it. This gives the pasta time to absorb the dressing.
Once the bacon is ready, if you went extra crispy, just crumble it into the salad. I like mine crispy, but not crumbly, so I usually tear and crumble.
Add more dressing, stir, and place back in the refrigerator.
As I have said, I am not a “pretty” cook. My dishes don’t look perfectly made, things aren’t evenly sliced, but for me, as long as it tastes great, I’m happy!
Leave in the refrigerator for at least one to two hours, giving time for the pasta to truly take on the flavor of the dressing. You can prepare it the day before, just add a little more dressing in the morning.
Before serving, add a little more dressing to keep it from tasting dry, stir it up again. Taste. If you want more flavor, add more dressing.
I usually use one whole bottle (16 oz) per box of pasta. Just remember to not add as much the day you are preparing if you are serving it the following day.
I will add, I don’t think the Olive Garden dressing sticks to the pasta as well as the Wishbone dressing does. It tasted good the first day but I could barely taste it the next night. I was surprised because, to me, the Olive Garden dressing has a little bite to it.
Either way, it is a great salad for a hot day. Fresh and, with the cucumber, nice and crisp.