Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

This BLT Pasta Is Your Cool-For-The-Summer Salad

by 
Delilah Bourque
May 24, 2021

Growing up an only child in the Connecticut suburbs, my extremely outdoorsy parents had but one offspring to pass their love of everything that is dirty, smelly, or physically challenging onto: me. In high school, while I preferred to stay indoors with a good book and generally keep away from any non-fictional people, my parents adored everything from fishing, to hiking, to their greatest love — hours and hours of yard work. 

At the behest of my parents, as their only in-house free labor with no siblings to split it with, I worked in our backyard for hours every summer. Our home featured peach trees, two separate composting piles, and a massive vegetable garden that we tended each year. First came the tilling of the soil to reset from last year’s harvest, then sowing rows of snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and squash, and finally spending hours pulling up the grass and dandelions that had the audacity to spring up between the carefully cultivated crops. 

There was only one advantage to the hours I spent weeding and mowing the lawn into not-exactly-straight lines: the food my mom would cook once our garden bloomed. With a combination of the food from our own yard and purchased at the local farmer’s market, she would spend all Sunday afternoon crafting elaborate feasts from seemingly random ingredients. Some garlic scapes here, wild mushrooms there, and by dusk, my whole family — which consisted of my parents and myself, with our rescue dog laying at our feet, hoping for scraps— would gather around on our back porch for dinner.

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One of my favorite meals was a simple BLT pasta salad my mom would whip up when the summer heat became so stifling that none of us wanted to cook much of anything. As a historically tomato-adverse kid, I was skeptical of the dish the first time she made it, but soon came to love it. Just like the sandwich, the crisp crunch of romaine lettuce melded beautifully with the acidic bite of cherry tomatoes and the indulgence of salty, fatty bacon -- but this cooled-down version was the perfect balance to the sun’s heat. It soon became a summer staple, never lasting in the fridge for more than a couple of days. 

As the night cooled and our yard filled with bats feasting on mosquitos, we would sit for hours enjoying bruschetta with home-grown tomatoes and basil, served warm with steak from a farm just down the street from our home, and ending the night with espresso and peach cobbler. The yard would get dark, prompting my dad to turn on the white string lights that surrounded our porch as the neighborhood children ran and screamed during elaborate games of hide-and-go-seek.

These summer nights were what helped me grow to love cooking. During these months, it was always worth it to make a large spread of fresh and delicious food, whether it was watching World Cup soccer with my entire extended family or enjoying the end to a long weekend of getting sunburnt caring for the yard. 

My family has since moved away from that house, into a smaller home in Pittsburgh  with a tiny yard that pales in comparison to the seemingly endless lawn I used to have to mow. Our dog likes to stare out of the window, as if he longs for the days where clipped his leash to the clothesline so he could run among us during the hottest days of summer. We still have a back porch, though it’s smaller now and looks over the crowded Pittsburgh hills, where — in the summer— we still sit and eat elaborate dinners, just like old times.

Backyard BLT Pasta Salad

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Serves 4

Ingredients

1 box/16 oz. bowtie pasta

1 lb thick, center-cut bacon

1 cup mayonnaise 

1 8-oz container cherry tomatoes

2.5-3 cups Fifth Season Baby Romaine or chopped romaine lettuce

2 tsps celery seeds

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

 | 
 | 
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 box/16 oz. bowtie pasta

1 lb thick, center-cut bacon

1 cup mayonnaise 

1 8-oz container cherry tomatoes

2.5-3 cups Fifth Season Baby Romaine or chopped romaine lettuce

2 tsps celery seeds

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients

1 box/16 oz. bowtie pasta

1 lb thick, center-cut bacon

1 cup mayonnaise 

1 8-oz container cherry tomatoes

2.5-3 cups Fifth Season Baby Romaine or chopped romaine lettuce

2 tsps celery seeds

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1.  Bring a pot of water to a boil, salting lightly.

2.  Add bowtie pasta to the pot and cook through.

3.  Chop the raw bacon (or use pre-chopped bacon) and saute it in a skillet. While the bacon cooks, slice cherry tomatoes in half.

4.  Once the bacon is crisp, turn off the heat and remove it with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels until cool. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat, and add to your skillet the celery seed, salt, a few grinds of fresh black pepper, and apple cider vinegar. Do this with caution, as the pan is still hot and this should sizzle a bit. Stir and scrape up any brown bits, and then transfer the contents of your skillet to a large mixing bowl. Add the sliced cherry tomatoes, toss to coat, and set aside to cool completely.

5.  Once the pasta has finished cooking, drain and rinse briefly in cold water. 

6.  Add mayonnaise and bacon to the cooled vinegar and tomatoes. Pour the dressing over the pasta and gently toss to coat, ensuring that the pasta is thoroughly dressed. Place in the fridge to chill, approximately 2 hours. 

7. Once pasta mixture is chilled, add in romaine lettuce immediately before serving and stir well to combine. Serve chilled.

About the Author

Delilah Bourque

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