Here it is.

THE pasta salad for summer 2018. It’s fresh, it’s fabulous, it has BACON. And you’re going to be making it all season long.

This dish involves a fair amount of bacon + bacon fat (you’re welcome), so it needs to be eaten warm. Not hot, not cold, but just slightly above room temperature. Bacon fat solidifies when cold, so when you’ve got vegetables sautéed in bacon fat + a dressing made with bacon fat (!!!!!!), eating this straight from the fridge is garbage. I’ve done it, sure. But it’s not the best it can be. So when you prep this recipe, make sure you enjoy it immediately. And when you store the leftovers in the fridge (lol — as if you’ll have any), you gently warm it in the microwave before eating again.

It’s a small caveat, but an important one. And with that out of the way, let’s dig in.

The key to this recipe is that several tasks happen all at once. You start by roasting halved mini heirloom tomatoes in the oven, then concurrently boil the pasta water and pan-fry the bacon. It sounds like a bit of a shit-show, but if you get organized ahead of cooking, I promise this goes smoothly.

Once the bacon is crackling and crisp, transfer to a cutting board to cool before chopping, then drain most of the bacon fat into a glass jar, leaving a generous residue inside your skillet. Next sauté shallots, garlic, and fresh corn kernels IN the bacon fat, which, obviously, is amazing. The smells wafting from your range are straight-up tantalizing at this point, so if you sneak a spoonful of deliciousness while no one’s looking, trust that I did the same.

With the tomatoes roasted, the pasta cooked, the bacon chopped, and the corn mixture simmering, lastly prepare the dressing. A simple combination of bacon fat, pasta water, and a touch of dijon mustard is all this player needs. And when you mix all these lusciously savory, sweet, crispy, tender ingredients into one pasta salad for the ages?

PURE SUMMER. In a bowl, on a plate, straight into your mouth.

A finishing sprinkle of shredded smoked gouda literally hugs each noodle, bringing the comfort level here to 100. I tossed in some fresh arugula for a necessary punch of greens, rounding out this pasta salad into the app/side/main of your dreams. A little salty, a touch smokey, LOADS of texture, and surprisingly creamy too, this is utterly cozy yet still totally fresh. The corn + tomatoes add a brightness that you can taste, and SEE, so stop reading and get cooking. Xo

Simple Corn, Tomato, & Bacon Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • PASTA SALAD:
  • 1 pint mini heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of salt & pepper
  • 10 oz Campanelle pasta
  • 8 – 10 oz bacon, at room temperature
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 5 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 2 – 3 cups arugula, lightly packed
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded smoked gouda cheese
  • DRESSING:
  • 2 tbsps bacon fat
  • 3 tbsps pasta water
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375F. In a small baking dish toss the tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil, then just barely season with salt & pepper. Roast on oven middle rack for 10 – 15 minutes until gently blistered, burst, and just beginning to char. Shut off the oven and keep the tomatoes inside so they remain warm until needed (they won’t overcook by doing this, don’t worry!).
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta till al dente, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water when draining.
  3. In a large skillet cook the bacon over a medium flame until crisp, about 7 minutes. Use a fork to flip as necessary for even cooking (I flipped my strips 2 – 3 times until finished). Once cooked, transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop when cool enough to handle.
  4. Drain the bacon fat into a glass jar, leaving about 1 – 2 tsps in the skillet. Keeping warm over a medium flame, add the shallots and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Next add the corn kernels, stirring regularly until tender and caramelized, about 6 – 8 minutes.
  5. Prepare the dressing. In a small mixing dish combine the reserved bacon fat, reserved pasta water, and dijon mustard, whisking until smooth.*
  6. Combine the cooked/drained pasta with the tomatoes, chopped bacon, corn mixture, dressing, fresh arugula, and half of the smoked gouda cheese. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and immediately eat! This stays good in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 5 days, and can be reheated in the microwave using either the “frozen entree” or “defrost” option, depending on your equipment. I do not recommend eating this cold.

*I prefer my pasta salads minimally dressed, so if you prefer yours a bit “saucier”, make a dressing that’s 3 tbsps bacon fat, 4 1/2 tbsps pasta water, and 2 tsps dijon mustard.