If you’re looking for a dish to take to a summer party, look no further! This Italian Chicken Pasta Salad is a perfect side dish for your next gathering. This easy pasta salad recipe contains protein and veggies, so it also doubles as a main dish on busy nights. Serve it as a cold pasta salad or at room temperature with a Basil Martini for dinner on a hot summer evening on the patio.
This Italian caprese-style chicken pasta salad recipe uses the traditional caprese ingredients of fresh mozzarella, vibrant cherry tomatoes and basil pesto and then adds in chicken for protein, asparagus for added nutrients, and pine nuts for texture and crunch. It will quickly become one of your favorite healthy recipes!
You can use grilled chicken breast for a grilled chicken pasta salad recipe if you feel up to lighting the grill. Or for super easy recipe preparation, use pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the store. Another way to simplify this recipe is to use leftover chicken from a previous dinner.
I’m always trying to add fresh veggies in almost every dish I make. This recipe uses crisp tender asparagus and a cherry tomato medley to pack nutrients into the dish. The asparagus are blanched which is an easy technique that quickly cooks the asparagus to crisp tender and retains the bright green color of the vegetable.
For a fun pasta, I use campanelle pasta because it perfectly latches onto the pesto and retains the sauce. As an added bonus, kids love the shape!
For this chicken pasta salad recipe, I used store bought pesto but you can easily make a quick homemade fresh basil pesto in less than 15 minutes. You can try this traditional basil pesto recipe if you would like to make it from scratch.
To add crunch and texture, this recipe uses toasted pine nuts. It is entirely worth the extra 3 minutes to toast and include them in this dish. I highly recommend to include them. The nutty flavor and crunch of the pine nuts is one of my favorite things about this recipe.
I made this dish for a 4th of July celebration this year with family and friends. After the cancellation of last year’s festivities, sharing great food and connection with people we’ve dearly missed on a beautiful sunny day, made for an extra special celebration.
How to blanch asparagus
Boil trimmed asparagus for approximately 3 minutes and then plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. In this dish, the asparagus is intended to add nutrients, color and texture to the dish so you want the asparagus to be cooked crisp tender. It’s as easy as 1 – 2 – 3!
1 – Trim the ends of the asparagus.
2 – Drop into boiling water for approximately 3 minutes (2.5 minutes for thin asparagus and 3 minutes for thicker asparagus). Time matters here. A lot. Don’t get distracted or you will have mushy asparagus.
3 – Remove the asparagus from the boiling water and plunge into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Leave in the ice water for 1 minute. Boom! You have blanched asparagus.
How to toast pine nuts
Heat a medium to large skillet over low to medium heat. Keep the pan dry – do not use oil. Toast the pine nuts for 3 minutes only. Stir the pine nuts around in the skillet so they get toasted on both sides. Remove from the heat. Do not walk away or get distracted during this process either or you will have burnt pine nuts.
1 – Boil and drain the pasta
2 – Blanch the asparagus
3 – Toast the pine nuts
4 – Wash the tomatoes and cut in half
5 – Shred or slice the chicken
- 1 pound of Campanelle pasta, cooked al dente
- 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken OR 2 grilled chicken breasts sliced into 1-inch slices
- 12 oz medley of cherry tomatoes
- ½ bunch of crisp tender blanched asparagus
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls
- 2.25 oz (64 g) toasted pine nuts
- 8 oz basil pesto, homemade or prepared
- 1 lemon squeezed for fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
Step by step instructions:
Cook pasta according to package directions, al dente.
Blanch the asparagus according to directions.
Toast the pine nuts according to directions.
Wash the tomatoes and cut in half.
If using tender chicken from a rotisserie style chicken, shred it into a small bowl. If grilling the chicken, season the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder and cook chicken on the grill over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked through. Then, slice the chicken into 1-inch slices.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta, chicken, tomatoes, blanched asparagus, fresh mozzarella pearls, toasted pine nuts and the fresh basil pesto.
Next, whisk together the 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil with the fresh lemon juice from 1 squeezed lemon and be sure to whisk until emulsified and combined. Add to the pasta dish.
Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and parmesan cheese if using. Stir to combine.
Voila! A simple pasta salad with a lean meat that’s sure to satisfy your taste buds!
Add this dish to your recipe file and you have another great recipe to include in your healthy eating lifestyle. Refrigerate leftovers and store in an airtight container and this chicken pasta salad keeps well for up to one week.
Enjoy! Love your people, cook them healthy food!
Italian Chicken Pasta Salad with Pesto
- 16 ounces Campanelle pasta cooked al dente
- 2 cups rotisserie chicken shredded
- 12 ounces cherry tomato medley
- 1/2 bunch asparagus blanched to crisp tender
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls
- 2.25 ounces pine nuts toasted
- 8 ounces basil pesto store bought or homemade
- 1 lemon squeezed for fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- parmesan cheese optional
- Boil and drain pasta
- Blanch the asparagus
- Toast the pine nuts
- Wash the tomatoes and cut in half
- Shred or slice the chicken
- Cook pasta according to package directions, al dente.
- Blanch the asparagus according to directions.
- Toast the pine nuts according to directions.
- Wash the tomatoes and cut in half.
- If using tender chicken from a rotisserie style chicken, shred it into a small bowl. If grilling the chicken, season the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder and cook chicken on the grill over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked through. Slice the chicken into 1-inch slices.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta, chicken, tomatoes, blanched asparagus, fresh mozzarella pearls, toasted pine nuts and the fresh basil pesto.
- Next, whisk together the 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil with the fresh lemon juice from 1 squeezed lemon. Whisk until emulsified and combined. Add to the pasta dish.
- Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and parmesan cheese if using. Stir to combine.