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Creamy Pasta Salad with Bacon, Peas, & Bell Peppers

It seems like I blinked and now the end of summer is here.

(Can I let you in on a little secret? I’m looking forward to summer ending. Fall — ahem, Autumn, which happens to be my niece’s name — is my favorite season for a million reasons, not least of which are chilly temps, cozy sweaters, and warm mulled cider, but I am also head-over-heels in love with winter. And yes, when I tell people that, the most common question I get is Really? Lol, yes, really.)

With Labor Day next weekend, I know a lot of people are looking for new twists on picnic food, and this salad is a great way to switch up your normal pasta salad routine.

Here are a few more picnic salad ideas:

If you have a favorite picnic food to share, feel free to link to it in the comments below!

Creamy Pasta Salad with Bacon, Peas, & Bell Peppers 2

Creamy Pasta Salad with Bacon, Peas, and Bell Peppers
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: About 8 servings
  • 8 oz pasta (I used gemelli, but you can use any shape you like)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 slices turkey bacon, diced
  • 4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ medium onion, very finely diced
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat mayo or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 shallot, halved and thinly sliced
  1. Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions; drain and set aside to cool.
  2. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat; add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
  3. Whisk together the cream cheese, onion, mayo or Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until smooth. (Alternatively, process everything together in a food processor until smooth and then transfer it to a large bowl.)
  4. Toss in the pasta, peas, red bell pepper, and shallot in the dressing.
  5. Refrigerate until serving; right before serving toss in the bacon or sprinkle it on top.
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light’s recipe for Macaroni Salad with Bacon, Peas, & Creamy Dijon Dressing.
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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  1. Could this recipe be used without the cream cheese in it?

    1. Sandy, Yes, you can omit the cream cheese and add a bit more Greek yogurt and/or mayo if you prefer. If you make it, please let me know how it turns out!

  2. I’ve made this three times (and am about to again for a 4th of July BBQ) and literally had a girlfriend offer to help me move only “if you make that pasta salad for me!”
    It’s incredible, EASY, and delicious! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Sara, I’m so happy you’re enjoying this! Thanks so much for letting me know, you made my night! :)

  3. This looked so yummy I made it. When I first made it and tried it it was good, but after I regrigerated it it gelled up like cream cheese instead of being loose and creamy. Suggestions?

    1. Laura, You could try one of a couple different things: 1) let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes right before serving, giving it a good stir when you’re ready to serve (15 minutes at room temp shouldn’t hurt it – just don’t leave it right out in the hot sun); or 2) stir in a couple spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, sour cream, or mayo if you want to serve it right from the fridge.

  4. Just tried this and it is awesome! I had to make a few substitutions related to the contents of my refrigerator, but nonetheless, tasty. I also decided to use Neufchatel cheese instead of regular cream cheese for a little less fat content, and it seems to have been a good choice. Thanks for the recipe! Happy eating :-) ~Peyton

  5. I could really go for a bowl of that right now rather than my quickly thrown together cheese sandwich. It looks amazing Faith!

  6. This salad has all the right ingredients to become a favorite of mine Faith! It looks very creamy and tasty. I love such all in one meals!

  7. I was thinking picnic before I read it lol. Often such salads fall flat in taste but this one looks perfect, especially with the bacon. No, make summer stay forever ;-)

  8. This pasta salad looks delicious, love the veggies all together with the creamy sauce…absolutely perfect for the warm weather.
    Thanks for the recipe and hope you are having a wonderful week Faith :)

  9. Nooo, I’m not ready to even think about fall yet! Quit it with that kind of talk. We still have plenty of summer left, which is why this pasta salad is so timely. I’m not usually one for creamy versions, but it does look really rich and perfectly indulgent.

  10. Love fall too :) The pasta looks really delicious, and perfect for lunch.

  11. I’m a kindred fall/winter lover too! But I hope to sneak in some more summer salads like this one! Love the Dijon dressing.

  12. Summer definitely went by too quickly…seems like yesterday that my son’s school ended and next week it is starting up again!

    Wonderful pasta salad…and doesn’t look to heavy either!

  13. Funny Faith! I started out my post today talking about the change of seasons as well ;). I can see why you are looking forward to Autumn and Fall – those are magnificent seasons where you live!

  14. This sounds like a great flavor combo…I’m a firm believer that cheese (in any form) and bacon make everything better!

  15. I still have a long list of summer things I wanted to do so I’m not ready for fall! This pasta salad looks really good and easy enough for me to make!

  16. What is it about peas with pasta that is so darn good? I’m a summer gal all the way…so I never look forward to fall/winter…but fall is actually pretty nice weather wise down here. What a perfect labor day dish

  17. Yum, I could do with some pasta, especially as I haven’t eaten it in over a week! A great way of incorporating veges as well. I like that you’ve used reduced fat cream cheese instead of creams.

  18. It is crazy how time passes… This pasta dish looks really scrumptious! My kind of food.



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