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When you live in the Midwest (or in the heart of the US) you pretty much see pasta salad at every family gathering, grill-out, brunch, baby shower or picnic from spring until summer. It's not a bad thing, unless you A: don't like pasta salad, or B: the pasta salads are heavy, bland and overly mayo-d. This salad is light and unusual, in that the "ranch" is not just a bottle of dressing poured over or cups of mayo mixed with a packet Hidden Valley. It's a vinaigrette. Hooray! You could take one healthier step and do a gluten-free noodle if you like. This time I didn't, but your call.

"The dressing is pungent and tangy- but very light. You do not feel guilty eating this one. Not that food should ever make you feel guilty- but you get my point."

Notes: Olive oil is extra virgin. Mayo is Hellmann's.

Bacon, Cheddar & Ranch Rotini Salad

Ingredients: 1 lb. cooked rotini noodles, 1/2 cup of each: chopped cooked bacon, quartered cherry tomatoes, sliced black olives, chopped green bell pepper, 1 cup cubed cheddar cheese, 2 green onions- green and white parts sliced. For the Ranch Vinaigrette: 1/4 cup olive oil, scant 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1 tbsp. ranch seasoning, 1 tsp. mayonnaise, 1 tsp. dried parsley, pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6

1. Combine rotini, bacon, tomatoes, bell pepper, olives, green onion, and cheese in a large bowl.

2. Make vinaigrette: Whisk the oil and vinegar together. Add the buttermilk, ranch seasoning, mayo, parsley, and pepper.

3. Pour vinaigrette over the salad, toss. Let salad sit for 30 minutes before serving to deepen flavor.

#salad #rotini #cheddar #bacon


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