Roasted tomato pasta salad features sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and bacon for a delicious lunch, side dish, or dinner. Make a batch ahead to take lunch to the office!
When it comes to summer tomatoes, I’m an “eyes bigger than your gardening beds and pantry” kind of girl.
Every single year I plant tomatoes in the yard, even though I know I won’t be able to keep up. I’ve managed to tame myself a little bit this year, sticking with just one cherry tomato plant.
If you’ve never grown cherry tomatoes, they tend to grow quickly, put out a lot of fruit, and then… take forever to ripen.
I grow Sun Golds, which you pick while orange, but it can still feel like a long wait between that first flower and daily picking. The good thing is, once that bright color starts showing, you’ll be reaping bowls full of benefits.
Along with tomatoes, pasta salad is one of the great pleasures of summer. Comforting carbs, but acceptable to eat cold? Sold!
While tortellini pasta salad tends to be my potluck go-to, and balsamic chicken pasta salad is a favorite for bringing to new moms, this roasted tomato pasta salad is what I turn to for a quick lunch.
Because pasta salad can be made ahead, it’s perfect for portioning into containers for lunches. This version does need a little extra prep work, but you can take care of those other steps up to a few days ahead of time.
How to roast cherry tomatoes
This recipe uses roasted cherry tomatoes. Do not skip this step! Aside from adding a tremendous depth of flavor to the dish, you might discover roasted tomatoes to be your new favorite thing.
I like to roast tomatoes for everything, like my oven roasted pasta sauce and my homemade cheese with roasted tomato and basil. Roasting makes the tomatoes sweeter and juicy; these roasted cherry tomatoes are halfway to a sun-dried tomato and are oh-so-addictive.
To roast, simply halve the tomatoes (or leave whole if you like) and toss with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 200°F for about 2 hours.
How to bake bacon
I add bacon to a lot of my pasta salads, because why not? The best way to prepare bacon for pasta salads (or anything, in my book) is to bake it.
All you need is a baking sheet and, ideally, a rack that can fit inside the baking sheet. I use a cookie cooling rack for this. I also line the pan with foil to help with cleanup, but you can skip this if you prefer.
Baking the bacon allows the excess rendered fat to drain as it cooks, as well as gives you crispy, flat strips that are easy to use for all sorts of purposes from sandwiches to salads.
I set my oven to 375°F and cook the bacon for about 18 minutes. Do take note that the time needed will depend on how thickly sliced your bacon is, as well as the level of crispness you desire.
Dressing Pasta Salads
I find that pasta salads don’t need a lot of dressing, and I’ve kept it simple here in using homemade pesto sauce. You only need a small amount, and you can always make it go a bit further by adding a bit of the pasta water to the pesto before mixing it with the salad.
Put the dressing on your pasta salad while the pasta is still slightly warm. This allows the dressing to coat better than if you chill the pasta completely. Make sure to cook the pasta just to al dente, as overcooking can mean the pasta will fall apart once the dressing is added and it chills.
If you don’t want to use pesto, try this with your other favorite dressings. My roasted tomato salad dressing is a perfect option!
How to store pasta salad
Ideally, you’ll be making pasta salad ahead of time, as it benefits from a stint in the refrigerator. You can simply cover the bowl you mixed it all in (I like these stretchy covers) or put into a lidded container.
Pasta salad will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that if you want added greens to be vibrant and not wilted, you should only mix them in just before serving.
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 8 ounces pasta
- 4 slices bacon
- 1/4 cup pesto
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 1/2 cup cotija cheese
- Preheat oven to 250°F. Halve cherry tomatoes and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente and drain. Rinse pasta with cold water and set aside.
- Cook bacon until crisp, then drain on paper towels and slice.
- Once tomatoes have roasted, combine pasta, bacon, tomatoes, spinach, cotija cheese, and pesto in a large bowl. Stir to mix well, then serve.
If making ahead of time, do not add spinach until just before serving.
- Bialetti 5 Quart Pasta Pot with with Strainer Lid, Nonstick
- OXO Good Grips 3-piece Mixing Bowl Set
- USA Pan Quarter Sheet Baking Pan and Bakeable Nonstick Cooling Rack
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 306 Total Fat: 18g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 11g Cholesterol: 30mg Sodium: 584mg Carbohydrates: 23g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 2g Protein: 13g