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Fennel-Bacon Pasta Salad

 Fennel-Bacon Pasta Salad
We love it when a recipe turns out to be simple to prepare but elegant enough to serve at a formal dinner. Serve this pasta as a main dish for 4 people, or make it a side dish and make 8 people happy. The pasta is best served warm, but chilling it is another tasty option. —Julian Wong, La Jolla, California
16 ServingsPrep: 15 min. Cook: 20 min.

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16 ounces) spiral pasta
  • 6 thick-sliced bacon strips, chopped
  • 3 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups walnut halves
  • 1-1/4 cups (5 ounces) crumbled Stilton cheese, divided
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until
  • crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.
  • Remove drippings, reserving 3 tablespoons. Saute fennel in reserved
  • drippings for 4-6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add walnuts; cook
  • 3-4 minutes longer or until toasted.
  • Drain pasta, reserving 1/3 cup pasta water. Add pasta, bacon and 3/4
  • cup cheese to fennel mixture; sprinkle with pepper and salt. Toss
  • lightly until cheese is melted, adding enough reserved pasta water
  • to coat pasta. Serve warm with remaining cheese. Refrigerate
  • leftovers. Yield: 16 servings.
Nutritional Facts: 3/4 cup equals 252 calories, 13 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 301 mg sodium, 26 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 9 g protein.