Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken by The Parsley Thief

katie_pestopastasalad“As promised, more from Cooks Illustrated ’30 Minute Meals’ mag. How could I resist making this meal? It’s perfect in every way. It’s has all of your typical dinner food groups, all in one bowl. It can be served warm, room temperature, or cold. It tastes delicious the day of, or days after. It’s simple, nutritious & quick. Then, the sugar on top…everyone in my family will eat it!  If you’ve never served pesto to your kids & you’re not sure how they will like it…this is a great start. As, this particular recipe for pesto is pretty mild. It contains more nuts than typical versions & less garlic. Not like the pesto I am used to, but so good!” Katie, The Parsley Thief

Begin by cooking 1 pound of Campanelle pasta in a large pot of salted water. I love using Campanelle, or bell flower shaped pasta…especially, for pasta salads, as it’s such a pretty shape & holds dressings, or sauces very well. But, you can use whatever pasta you have on hand. Cook the pasta about 1 minute less than al dente. The pasta will absorb the dressing & swell. So, it’s best to under-cook it. Drain & rinse under cold water. Set aside for now.

For the pesto dressing, grate a 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese & toast a 1/2 cup of pignolis {pine nuts}. I put them in the toaster oven, at 350 degrees, for about 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch out, because they have a high oil content & will burn very quickly.

Next, measure a {packed} 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves. Add all of these ingredients to the bowl of a food processor, along with the juice of 1 lemon & 1 coarsely chopped garlic clove. Blend until smooth. Then, with the motor running, slowly add 2/3 cups of extra-virgin olive oil & process until incorporated.

Rinse & trim 1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast. Then slice them down the middle, so that you have 4 thin pieces of chicken. Drizzle them with 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil & season generously with salt & freshly ground pepper. Grill for about 3-5 minutes per side {depending on how thin they are}, or until they are cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board & cut into thin slices.

Transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Halve 1 pint of cherry tomatoes & throw them in, along with 2 ounces of baby arugula. Add a splash of the dressing, just to loosen up the pasta & toss to combine.

Add in the sliced chicken, pour on just enough dressing to moisten the salad to your liking, toss & serve.

 

Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, “30 Minute Suppers”, Summer 2010
Serves 4
Note: I love using Barilla’s Campanelle pasta for pasta salads, as it’s a pretty shape & holds dressings very well. But, any pasta can be substituted for it…Penne, Fusilli, Farfalle, etc.

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup {packed} fresh basil leaves
juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cups + 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast
salt & pepper, to taste
1 pound Campanelle pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 ounces baby arugula

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta, according to the package instructions, until 1 minute less than al dente. Drain & rinse under cold water.
Meanwhile, combine the pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, basil & lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the 2/3 cups olive oil & process until incorporated.
Rinse & trim the chicken breast. Then slice them down the middle, so that you have 4 thin pieces of chicken. Drizzle them with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil & season generously with salt & freshly ground pepper. Grill for about 3-5 minutes per side {depending on how thin they are}, or until they are cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board & cut into thin slices.
Combine the pasta, tomatoes, arugula & sliced chicken in a large bowl. Add a bit of the dressing at a time & toss, until the salad is well coated with the pesto. You may not need all of it {If making ahead of time, or you end up with some leftovers, save the dressing to re-hydrate the salad later on}.
Check the salad for seasoning & serve.
Click here for the printable recipe.

 

 

 

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