This salad has a surprise ingredient: pasta!
Pasta isn’t a salad ingredient that you typically see here in the northeast. The only other time I’ve seen it was when I was in Minnesota last spring, and from what I can tell it’s a midwest thing. I kind of love it though! It adds a nice chewy component to the salad and bulks it up to make it more filling – in fact, that one little bowl was more than enough for me for dinner.
Besides the pasta, this salad is filled with little tastes of all sorts of good stuff like crispy bacon, seasoned chicken breast, and creamy gorgonzola cheese. It’s dressed with a super simple Sweet Italian vinaigrette.
I first saw this salad on Our Table For Seven this past May, and I was so excited to be paired up with Erin for this month’s Secret Recipe Club so I could have an excuse to make it! Erin was actually assigned to cook something from my blog a few months ago (she made my Pink Lemonade Cookies) and we both joined #SundaySupper around the same time, so I already feel like I know her. It was fun to read through her blog in more depth and pick something to make (I almost made her Crockpot Sweet Pork before I circled back around to the salad.)
Back to that pasta though. You want to use something small and compact so that it’s nice and chewy, and cook it until its just past al dente so that it stays soft (cook it about a minute longer than normal.) Erin recommends Ditalini, but something like elbows would also work. I used some of the vineyard pasta that I got in last month’s Taste Trunk, and they were perfect (and delicious!)
The sweet Italian dressing is much different than the types of dressing I typically use, but I found that the flavor grew on me. If you don’t like sweet dressings though, omit the sugar for a flavorful balsamic vinaigrette.
- 2 slices bacon, chopped
- 1boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 bag (9 ounces) romaine lettuce with red cabbage and carrots, chopped
- 2 green onions, white and green parts chopped
- 1 cup small pasta, cooked and cooled
- 4 ounces gorgonzola crumbles
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup water
- salt and pepper
- Add the bacon to a cool pan; place on a burner set to medium. Cook the bacon until the fat renders and it crisps up – 5-7 minutes. Remove bacon and drain on a paper towel. Toss the chicken in Italian seasoning. Cook in rendered bacon grease until golden brown and cooked through – about 5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.
- Add the lettuce, green onions, pasta, gorgonzola, bacon, and chicken to a large salad bowl.
- Add vinegar, garlic, sugar, and oregano to a blender or small food processor. Mix well. Slowly drizzle in the oil and water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Toss the salad with half the dressing. Let each diner add additional dressing to taste.