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This Pasta Salad is Potluck Perfection

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Pasta Salad with Peas, Bacon & Vinaigrette

By Stacy Harris

In the South, most occasions center around food. More often than not, events are considered “potluck,” where each person or group contributes a dish. My grandmother always loved potluck events because she knew her food —whether it was her amazing fried chicken or a scrumptious casserole — was the best.

I love potluck, too, but I like to bring tasty dishes that are a little healthier. That’s why I want to share this light, elegant alternative to the usual heavy potluck fare. Pasta Salad with Peas, Bacon & Vinaigrette is perfect to bring to a graduation celebration, baby shower, or church picnic, or to eat as light dinner with your family.

There are other things to love about this dish, too. It’s equally as yummy served warm or at room temperature, it’s beautiful to look at, and it travels well. You can make also this dish a day ahead and it will taste even better.

In fact, the only challenge that comes with making this recipe is gathering enough fresh peas from the garden! They are so good eaten straight from the vine that sometimes I don’t have enough just-picked peas left to make a meal and have to supplement with the frozen kind.

But you don’t have to tell any of this to the hungry folks at your next potluck meal. Just bring a big bowl of this exceptional pasta salad and do what my grandmother did: Let the food speak for itself!

pasta salad ingredients
Eating gluten-free? No problem. Just substitute rice noodles for the pasta shells.

Pasta Salad with Peas, Bacon & Vinaigrette
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side

Ingredients:
¾ cup slivered almonds
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups uncooked shell or other small-shape pasta
1½ cup baby green peas, fresh or frozen
8 slices bacon
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon or 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 small cucumber or 1/2 large cucumber, finely chopped
½ cup ricotta
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place slivered almonds on a baking sheet and roast in oven for about 5 minutes or until they are golden brown. Set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot. Add pasta and cook for about 8 minutes. Add peas and cook for another 2 minutes. Drain pasta and peas in a colander and rinse immediately with cold water to stop the cooking process. Transfer pasta and peas to a large serving bowl.
3. In a cast iron skillet, fry bacon until crispy (about 10 minutes), then remove and set aside on a paper towel to drain.
4. While the bacon is cooking, squeeze lemon juice into a small bowl, add zest, and slowly whisk remaining olive oil into the mixture until it begins to thicken. Add pepper and remaining salt to the vinaigrette, then pour over the pasta mixture.
5. Break or chop the bacon into small pieces and add to the pasta along with the almonds, poppy seeds, cucumber, ricotta, mint leaves, and parsley. Mix gently. Check the seasonings, adding salt, pepper, and lemon to taste.

Stacy Harris in her kitchen

Stacy Harris is pioneering the farm-to-fork eating movement that includes harvesting wild animals in addition to domesticated animals and homegrown fruits and vegetables. She’s the author of several books about sustainable living for healthy families, including her most recent release, Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living. For more recipes like this check out her website at GameandGarden.com and her Facebook page.