Creamy pasta salad is the perfect stress-free potluck or dinner side dish that everyone will love. Make this easy recipe in just 20 minutes!
Most pasta salad recipes involve a lot of chopping because of all the veggies, but this dish doesn’t require any of that!
The most work you’ll have to do is whisking together the homemade dressing and crumbling the bacon, which only takes a few seconds.
For another easy option, try my Broccoli Cheese Pasta Salad. It takes a bit more prep work, but it’ll get everyone to eat their vegetables and like it.
Or, make this Bacon Avocado Club Pasta Salad for a fully loaded dish that can be shared at a barbecue or enjoyed as a meal on its own.
This dish is great to include in a holiday party! For more check out our guide on how to host a stress-free holiday party!!
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Pasta – I like to use medium pasta shells, but feel free to use another medium or small noodle. Rotini, penne, macaroni, or bowtie are popular choices for pasta salad recipes.
- Veggies – Easily replace the frozen peas with frozen corn instead. Zucchini and summer squash would also be delicious if you don’t mind the extra chopping.
- Chives – While I love the flavor and texture of fresh chives, they can sometimes be too expensive or hard to find. Substitute with 1 ½ tablespoons dried chives if needed.
Tips and tricks for making creamy pasta salad
- Don’t overcook the pasta
You want the pasta to be al dente so it still has a little bite, otherwise the pasta salad will be soggy. Follow the instructions on the box for the correct cooking time, and test a noodle before draining to be sure.
- Rinse in cool water
To stop your pasta from continuing to cook, rinse it with cool water after draining. Then, toss the noodles with a touch of olive oils to prevent them from sticking to each other.
- Make it a complete meal
Add chopped chicken or ham to transform this from a side dish to a filling main course. Use leftover holiday ham or a rotisserie chicken to save the extra prep time.
How to cook and crumble bacon
There are a few different ways to make crispy bacon pieces, depending on how much time you have and which kitchen tools are available.
For the least amount of work, chop the bacon while it’s raw and toss it in a skillet on the stove. Cook until darkened, then drain on a paper towel lined plate.
You could also bake the bacon in the oven, then drain and crumble once cooled.
Or, if you have an air fryer, use that to make perfectly crisp strips.
Arrange the bacon in a single layer and cook for 6-10 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the desired texture.
What you’ll need to make this recipe
- Microplane Grater – If you don’t have one, you NEED one. These are fabulous for zesting citrus fruits as well as grating fresh cheese.
- Citrus Squeezer – While you can certainly juice your lemons by hand, this tool takes the grunt work out of the process. Plus, it gets so much more liquid out of each fruit!
- Colander – This kitchen essential makes life so much easier. Use it to drain pasta or wash fruits and vegetables.
How long is pasta salad good for?
Mayonnaise-based dishes will last for 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Serve chilled and do not leave at room temperature more than 2 hours for food safety reasons.
Can I make this recipe ahead of time?
Sure! Most pasta salads are best when served the day after being prepared anyway. Store the bacon separately in the refrigerator and add in just before serving.
Or, if you’d prefer, each component can be prepared up to a day in advance. Then, just assemble it when you’re ready!
With love from our simple kitchen to yours.
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Creamy Pasta Salad with Peas and Bacon
- 12 ounces medium shells, or other small pasta of choice
- 2 cups frozen petite peas, thawed
- 8 ounces thick cut bacon, cooked and chopped
Lemon Chive Dressing
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon salt pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
- Whisk together all of the Lemon Chive Dressing Ingredients together in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cook pasta according to package directions just until al dente. Rinse with cold water and drain. Drizzle with a little olive oil to keep from sticking.
- Add pasta, peas and dressing to a large bowl and toss until evenly combined. If serving immediately then add bacon and toss to combine. If not serving immediately then cover and chill in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, add bacon and toss to combine.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
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