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I saw this recipe in a Cabot yogurt ad in a magazine and it looked interesting. Anytime you can trick me into liking a good, creamy pasta salad without mayo is the work of the gods above, because, let’s face it, I have a serious, serious mayo addiction. You can post a million facebook updates about your wheat grass smoothies and your quinoa avocado salads but your not going to shame me into hiding the fact that dipping french fries into the perfect ketchup-mayo blend is a small slice of heaven. Moving on.

When I actually read the recipe – WHAM – there’s still mayo. So I just didn’t add it. My small act of rebellion for tricking me with your false promises of greek yogurt substitution you sneaky little Vermont Creamery, you. (Kidding Cabot, it was my false assumption, you bear none of the responsibility.) The cheddar dressing still had a great flavor, the panko breadcrumbs came through with a great texture addition, and … just … bacon.

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Greek Yogurt “Mac & Cheese” Pasta Salad

( Recipe taken/adapted from – http://www.cabotcheese.coop/recipes/bacon-mac-cheese-salad)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil (I used butter instead, so much for giving up the mayo.)
1 cup Panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs
12 slices flavorful smoked bacon
3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1/2 cup Cabot 2% Plain Greek-Style Yogurt or Cabot Plain Greek-Style Yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise (again, I took this out and just replaced it with more yogurt)
8 ounces Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar or Seriously Sharp Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups), plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1-2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I replaced this with horseradish sauce because I already had some and its a little bit spicier)
1 medium clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Optional extras: sliced green onions, chopped Italian parsley, slivered fresh basil, raw fresh corn kernels, diced fresh tomatoes, diced bell peppers, thinly sliced romaine lettuce
Directions:1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and stir and shake in pan until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes; immediately scrape into small bowl and set aside.

2. Add bacon to skillet and cook until crisp; transfer to paper towels to drain, then crumble or chop and set aside. (When I need bacon crumbles I cut the raw bacon first into small pieces using kitchen shears, then cook. It cooks super fast and you don’t have to get greasy bacon crumbling fingers. I think I got this from Rachel Ray but I cant be sure, I’ve watched a sickening amount of food network. If you are making this ahead of time I would suggest waiting until you are about to serve to cook the bacon. Leftover bacon gets soft and to me, the crisp texture of bacon is the best part.)

3. In large pot of boiling salted water, cook macaroni according to package directions until just tender. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. (I NEVER rinse my pasta in cold water, washes away the starch, sauce/dressing doesn’t stick as well, I just hate it. Condescending pasta opinion courtesy of the beautiful Scott Conant.)

4. While macaroni cooks, combine yogurt and mayonnaise in blender; add cheddar, vinegar, hot sauce, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper; blend until the consistency of mayonnaise and nearly smooth, stirring and scraping down side of container as needed to help ingredients “liquefy”. (Salad may be prepared ahead up to this point: refrigerate dressing and other ingredients separately, combining just before serving.)

5. In large bowl, toss together macaroni, cheddar dressing and reserved bacon in large bowl, mixing well. Serve topped with additional cheese and reserved toasted breadcrumbs. Surround with bowls of optional extras as desired. ( I top with bacon, not mix, again, for potential sog reasons.)

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