Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta Salad

August 21, 2020 by Nicole Collins

I think it's very possible that I'm turning myself into an Italian.

I mean, I've always wished that I was Italian. But, as far as I know, there's no Italian in my heritage.

Back in highshool, there used to be this jokester (someone that was a loud and proud Italian) that would say ”Do you have any Italian in you?” And then I, or whoever was the victim at the time, would say “no”. And then, he'd say...(kids, cover your ears)...”You want some?” Then, he'd give this little wink and a smile like he was the most Rico Sauve, clever guy in the world. *eyeroll*

Anywho, I think I may be slowly but surely turning myself into an Italian the old fashioned way...through my food!

I've told you guys before that I've eaten more pasta during these past few months of quarantine than I have my whole life. And pasta=Italian! Besides pasta, I've been eating my weight in basil (hello basil chive vinaigrette on everything), mozzarella (and it's creamy burrata cousin), and sun dried tomatoes. Italian, Italian, Italian!

I've even been doing a little house hunting (by way of a Facebook group) in Italy. Before we all know it, I may just be packing my bags, uprooting my life, and living under the Tuscan sun. I guess I better start teaching the doggies Italian!

In the meantime, today's recipe will bring us all one step closer to feeling a little more Italian. Today, we're making Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta Salad!

This salad has flavor, color, and texture bursting out of every direction. It's soooo good! Let's talk about the components of the salad. We start with a nice, short cut pasta. I used rotini for a couple of different reasons. One, those little spirals are so adorable. And two, those little spirals can hold a whole bunch of sauce in their little crevices! Cook the pasta according to package directions until perfectly al dente, and let the pasta cool down completely. This salad gets served either at room temperature or cold.

To the pasta, we're going to add a ton of goodies. Roasted chicken, baby tomatoes, crunchy walnuts, crisp baby spinach, and two types of cheese...mozzarella pearls and shredded parmesan all get mixed in with the pasta while everything waits to be coated in a rich and delicious sauce.

To dress our pasta salad, we're going to make the most delicious sun dried tomato dressing. Throw some sun dried tomatoes with their oil, fresh basil, a little garlic, some balsamic vinegar, and olive oil in a blender or food processor; and give it a whirl. Then, pour the dressing over the pasta salad, give it a good toss, and our recipe is complete!

This pasta salad has everything. The cheese is soft and creamy. The nuts are nice and crunchy. The veggies bring the pops of freshness. The chicken bulks up the salad. And, the dressing. Oh, the dressing. It's so rich from those sun dried tomatoes, but the vinegar helps it to not feel so heavy. It's a flavor bomb, for sure. This salad really is the perfect family meal or big party dish.

Ok, everyone! If you have any thoughts on how I can make myself even more and more Italian, send your ideas my way. Until then...mangia! And, let's eat!

Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta Salad

Serves: 4-6 Print

Ingredients:

For the Sun Dried Tomato Sauce:

  • ½ cup sun dried tomatoes + 1 tbsp oil from the jar

  • ¼ cup basil, packed

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed

  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • ¼ tsp pepper

For the Pasta Salad:

  • 8 oz rotini, cooked according to package directions and cooled

  • 2 cups cooked chicken, diced

  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1 cup pearl mozzarella or bocconcini

  • 1 cup baby spinach

  • ½ cup freshly shredded parmesan

  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Make the Sun Dried Tomato Sauce: To a small food processor or blender, add sun dried tomatoes + 1 tbsp oil from the jar, basil, vinegar, garlic, olive oil, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Process until smooth. Set aside.

  2. Assemble to Salad: To a large mixing bowl, add pasta, chicken, walnuts, grape tomatoes, mozzarella, spinach, and parmesan. Top with sun dried tomato sauce and a pinch of sea salt and pepper; then toss gently to mix completely. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Recipe notes:

*I used roasted chicken tenders seasoned with just salt and pepper for this, but leftover rotisserie chicken would work great here too. To roast, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil, and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Lay the tenders on the prepared pan, and spritz the top side of the chicken with olive oil cooking spray. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, flip the tenders, and put them back in the oven for another 8 minutes. Cool, and chop!

*To toast the walnuts, heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add walnuts, and toast for 4-5 mins, stirring occasionally, until the walnuts become fragrant and start to deepen in color just a bit.

*If you can't find pearl mozzarella, you can quarter bocconcini balls for this salad. Or, you could you fresh mozzarella that's been chopped or torn.

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