Once upon a time, I wasn’t a pesto fan. That was way back when the only pesto pastas I’d had were more oily than they were creamy. So I shied away from anything pesto.
Then I started making my own pestos and realized it can be full of creamy flavor, without being greasy at all. In fact, homemade pestos can be quite the superfood. It’s packed with nutrients and antioxidants, courtesy of pine nuts, basil, lemon, extra virgin olive oil, and plenty of garlic.
Not to mention pestos are super flex. You can toss it with pasta, smother it over chicken, dollop it over shrimp, or spread it over toasted baguettes. It’s especially tasty as a sandwich spread. It elevates any sandwich into your very own gourmet-wich.
For this Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken, I used casarecce pasta, for its fun and unique shape ↑↑. Casarecce is a traditional pasta used for Sicilian pestos; it’s perfectly shaped to capture and hold all that pesto sauce.
Fusilli, rotini, and shells are work really well for allowing pesto sauce to cling to their twisty pasta nooks.
‘Cause you don’t want any of this ⇓ going to waste.
Even with 2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, this basil based pesto isn’t oily at all.
It’s loaded with the goodness of fresh basil leaves, pine nuts (toasted pecans can be subbed as a cheaper alternative,) fresh lemon juice, and fresh garlic. Plus freshly grated parmesan. Always plenty ‘o parm. ♥
Toss as much of the blended pesto with your pasta as you like. I usually like to reserve a bit on the side to add to leftovers if it needs more sauce the next day.
Add in the grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, and baby arugula for Pasta Salad Perfection. Sprinkle with more freshly grated parm ♥
If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, this pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken makes an incredibly delicious lunch that will incite lunch envy in anyone who walks by.
This Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken has everything going for it. It’s light yet substantial. Healthy yet filling. Simple yet beautifully appetizing.
Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, towel dried and pounded to even thickness
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb dried pasta, fusilli, rotini, shells, etc. all work well
- ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅔ cup fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts, or toasted pecans
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 12 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 cups baby arugula
- Sprinkle a light layer of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper over both sides of towel-dried chicken breasts. Grill over medium high heat either on a well-greased indoor grill pan or outdoor grill, about 4-6 min per side depending on thickness. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Bring a large, heavy pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta until tender, according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cool water; drain again but leave pasta slightly wet (helps with loosening the pest sauce when tossed.)
- While waiting for water to boil and pasta to cook, make the pesto. In a food processor or very powerful blender, add the olive oil, basil, nuts, parmesan, lemon juice, garlic, 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Process until smooth and creamy.
- If needed, rinse cooked pasta again to loosen. Combine pasta with pesto sauce, tossing to combine well. Slice grilled chicken and add to pasta. Add tomatoes and arugula just before serving. If needed, add kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with additional parmesan for garnish. Serve.
Did you make this?
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Source: Chew Out Loud, inspired by America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Here are a few other awesome pasta/grain salads for your spring/summer noshing:
1. Caprese Pasta Salad. Nothing says summer better than a delicious Caprese. Now make it into a pasta salad for an unbeatable warm-weather dish.
- Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. Better than any mac salad. Totally ono.
- Southwestern Barley Salad. Tex Mex bold flavors, with healthful barley and veggies. One of the best side dishes.
- BLT Tortellini. Have your bacon and tortellini too. So delish.