Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

Chicken Pasta Salad made with a homemade Ranch style vinegar dressing, short cut pasta, cooked chicken, Vidalia onion, celery, cheese, bacon, peas and tomatoes.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

The unofficial start to the cookout season is just about here, the heat is on and that means it's pasta salad time! Don't you just love a good pasta salad in the summer?

They are so adaptable and easily varied, make-ahead friendly, hold well in the fridge for awhile, and are a great take along for family gatherings, potlucks and church suppers. You can literally make an easy meal of it on a hot summer's day if you like, especially when you throw in a little protein. I've added chicken here, but a good smoked ham or shrimp are both excellent too.

It is rare that I don't have some kind of ham in my freezer, but as I have mentioned before, when the occasion arises where you need ham and don't have any, just visit the deli and request a single slice of ham, cut about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, depending on what you're using it for. They also sell ham steaks in the meat department that work well for many recipes.

Now... you will, as always, pay for the convenience, of course, so the most economical thing will always be to buy a larger half ham on sale, and then put some up in the freezer whenever you cook it. It's nice to know the deli can also come to the rescue too though, something that a lot of folks don't think about! Besides the ones that I cook, every holiday my mother-in-law bakes a ham of some kind and we are always blessed that she sends the remaining slices, and often the bone, home with us. She doesn't like making beans with a honey ham, but I don't mind that little taste of sweetness one bit, and y'all must know - I ain't turning down a ham bone!

I prefer to finish most of my mayo based pasta salads with a splash or two of regular milk to make them creamier, and this is helpful when stored too because it helps to re-moistens the dressing.

Here's how to make my chicken pasta salad.

Cook, drain and rinse the pasta to remove excess starch. I also like to drizzle a little olive oil on top. Any short cut pasta will work here - I had some Campanelle pasta (trumpets) leftover in the pantry so that's what I used here. Elbows, rotini, shells, even bowties will also work here.

Prepare the dressing. I use a basic homemade, buttermilk ranch-style, vinegar and mayo based dressing for this one, but to be honest, I am not opposed to a shortcut here either so use a commercially prepared dressing or a packet of dry Ranch seasoning if you prefer! Add the pasta to a large bowl and stir in half of the dressing.

Stir in the onion and celery; toss. Add the cooked, chopped chicken, the shredded cheese and all of the remaining dressing. This is also a very good pasta salad for chopped, smoked ham and cooked shrimp.

Add the bacon and peas, if using (I was out of frozen peas, or I would have added them), and if serving right away add the halved cherry tomatoes, otherwise, set those aside until just before serving.

Toss and taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Add a splash of milk or two until creamy, cover tightly and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Stir in a little more milk to refresh the consistency, and add tomatoes just before serving. Dig in and enjoy!

Recipe: Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 12 min | Yield: About 6 to 8 servings


For the Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons of dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons of dried onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
For the Salad:
  • 1/2 pound of any medium, short cut pasta
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil, optional
  • 1/2 cup of chopped Vidalia onion
  • 1/2 cup of chopped celery
  • 2 cups of chopped, cooked chicken
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper and Creole or Cajun seasoning, to taste
  • Milk, as needed to moisten, optional

Whisk together the dressing ingredients; set aside. Cook, drain and rinse the pasta; add to a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Stir in half of the dressing. Top with the onion and celery; toss. Add the chicken and cheese and the remaining dressing. Add the bacon and peas, if using, and if serving right away add the halved cherry tomatoes, otherwise, set those aside until just before serving. Toss and taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Add a splash of milk or two until creamy, cover tightly and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Stir in a little more milk to refresh the consistency, and add tomatoes just before serving.

Cook's Notes: Use any medium, short cut pasta such as elbows, rotini, trumpets, shells or bowties will also work. Also good with chopped smoked ham or cooked salad shrimp. Any leftovers may be refreshed with a little more vinegar and mayonnaise or milk.

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad: Mash up two large anchovies (or 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce) and add to the dressing. Chiffonade (thinly slice) six large leaves of rinsed but spun very dry romaine lettuce and toss. Sprinkle a cup of croutons on top of salad.


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©Deep South Dish
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Check These Recipes Out Too Y'all!

Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
Classic Old Fashioned Macaroni Salad
Cold Vermicelli Spaghetti Salad

Posted by on May 21, 2014
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  1. Sounds perfect for the long weekend. Blessings, Catherine

  2. I love these type of dishes for the hot summer months and especially if it's pasta. The added chicken or other meats turn it into a meal. Bacon is also good. Happy Memorial Weekend, Mary!

    1. Me too Tricia & Happy Memorial Weekend to you too! We're having a big crawfish boil/cookout/pool party at my son's house. Weather is supposed to be nice too. Can't wait!!

  3. Leftovers of that are good too.

  4. I seem to be the only one who thinks so because I never see it in any version of homemade ranch dressing but I think one of the things that makes the ranch flavor is a little bit of ground thyme.

    1. I think thyme is a great addition - I don't know why I didn't think to add it myself. Thanks Margaret!!

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