This is the type of cold pasta salad you can bring to a picnic, serve poolside, or make ahead and have a meal ready to go in the fridge!
The Best Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
If summer were a food, it would be this bacon ranch pasta salad. It’s filling, has lots of protein, and the ingredients we all love that make any meal epic without costing you extra: bacon and avocado!
It’s the kind of dish you’d bring to a potluck or picnic and gets devoured by everyone. I’ve also found it to be great on hot summer days at home when no one wants to even think about turning on the oven or cooking a meal.
The only thing that needs to be cooked is the pasta, the rest is chopped, tossed into a bowl, and refrigerated until it’s time to eat. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this cobb pasta salad with bacon:
- Pasta: use the classic macaroni shape or your favorite pasta.
- Tomatoes: for a pop of fresh flavor; cherry or grape are bite-sized or you can also use fresh diced tomatoes.
- Avocado: tastes so good with the other Cobb salad ingredients.
- Bacon: because we love that smoky flavor and crispy texture. For a quick solution, here is how to cook it in the microwave.
- Deli cuts: this recipe uses ham and turkey, but you could do one or the other.
- Hard-boiled eggs: great for protein and iconic on a Cobb salad. Make sure to peel those hard-boiled eggs the day you cook them so it’s easier to peel.
- Cheddar cheese: is a classic, but you can also opt for Pepper Jack, Colby Jack, or White Cheddar. Diced or grated works.
- Ranch dressing: we’re using creamy ranch today, but you can earn more about the best dressing for Cobb salad and se more options here!
*Check the recipe card at the end of this post for ingredient measurements and details.
How to Make Pasta Salad with Bacon & Ranch
This is one of those easy recipes you can prepare quickly AND ahead of time.
The basic steps are:
- Cook the pasta
Follow the package directions for cooking time based on the pasta shape. No need to rinse, just drain it and let it cool down directly in the large pasta bowl.
- Prep the ingredients
While the pasta cooks, chop up the other ingredients. Boil the eggs if necessary, and cook the bacon.
- Toss it all together
In the same large bowl, add all the ingredients and toss it with the Ranch dressing.
You can enjoy the pasta salad immediately or refrigerate it for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Watch the video to see how it’s done!
Get more non-sandwich lunch ideas for adults here!
Recipes like this are a great chance to enjoy all your favorite salad toppings with pasta instead of lettuce. Here are a few ingredient combinations to try:
- California style: swap the deli cuts for grilled chicken, it will taste incredible with the bacon, avocado, and ranch.
- Italian style: swap out the ranch, cheddar, and deli cuts with pesto, chopped pepperoni, and Mozzarella. You’ll have no regrets.
- Black olives + red onion: would make a great addition to the veggies and toppings included in this recipe.
- Grilled shrimp + vinaigrette: grilled shrimp instead of deli cuts, and a light vinaigrette instead of ranch.
- Balsamic vinaigrette: if you prefer a tangier dressing for pasta salad, Balsamic is a classic option.
- Citrus vinaigrette: not so traditional, but the bright springy flavors would taste incredible with these pasta salad ingredients.
Can You Make Pasta Salad the Night Before
Yes! Making pasta salads the night before is a great way for the pasta and the other ingredients to soak up the flavors from the dressing. This is why pasta salad tastes even better the day after it’s made!
How to Store Pasta Salad
It’s also important to store the salad in a sturdy airtight container. Covering it with a loose layer of plastic wrap will expose it to the cold temps, eventually drying it out.
A large food storage container with a tight-fitting lid is my go-to choice for making this salad and storing it in the fridge for later. Sometimes, I like to divide it up inside individual meal prep containers and have a ready-to-go meal I can bring to the office.
How to Keep Pasta Salad from Drying Out
No one likes a dry pasta salad, which is usually the result of not adding enough dressing or rinsing out the pasta after it’s cooked.
Making sure you have enough dressing to coat the pasta is essential for flavor and for texture.
When you don’t rinse out the pasta, the surface of the pasta will also absorb the dressing, instead of it falling to the bottom of the bowl, giving each piece enough moisture it needs.
If your pasta salad is too dry, simply add a bit more dressing, give it a toss, and it should be ready to go.
Easy Cobb Pasta Salad Recipe with Bacon & Boiled Egg
- 2 cups dry macaroni pasta
- ½ cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 avocado, diced
- 4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
- 4 slices ham, chopped
- 4 slices turkey, chopped
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
- ½ cup cheddar cheese
- ½ cup Ranch dressing
- Cook the macaroni pasta according to the package directions. Drain and add to a large bowl.
- To the pasta, add the grape tomatoes, bacon, ham, turkey, egg, and cheese. Drizzle with ranch dressing and toss to combine.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate in a lidded container for up to 3 days.