This classy chicken pasta salad is sure to impress with its tantalizing twist on bruschetta! It’s a quick and easy lunch, dinner or potluck favorite with a cook time of less than 15 minutes AND it’s prep ahead friendly. This chicken pasta salad recipe will fill you up without weighing you down with a fresh, hypnotic blend of tangy balsamic, herbaceous basil and aromatic garlic with bright pops of tomatoes, juicy balsamic chicken, nutty Parmesan, buttery mozzarella and a sprinkling of crunchy croutons.
Watch How to Make pasta Salad with chicken
FOR THE Pasta Salad:
For the vinaigrette:
Chicken Pasta Salad Recipe FAQs
Pasta should be cool for making creamy chicken pasta salad, otherwise the dressing will break and become runny. When using a vinaigrette dressing, however, it’s best to toss the pasta with the dressing when slightly warm so it soaks up more flavor from the dressing.
Yes, rinse the pasta under cold tap water to prevent it from cooking further and to cool it down quickly. Let the pasta drain well before proceeding with the recipe.
The vinaigrette should be added to the chicken pasta salad right before serving, otherwise, the pasta will soak up all of the dressing and the salad will taste bland. If your leftovers are bland, season with additional salt/pepper and a drizzle of balsamic.
Chicken Pasta Salad is best served at room temperature, but don’t let it sit out more than two hours. If pasta salad is served straight from the refrigerator, you will taste the chill of subdued flavors. Instead, pasta salad served at room temperature allows the flavors and dressing shine.
Yes, you should always salt your pasta water, whether making chicken pasta Salad or a warmed pasta dish. Salting the water is the one chance you have to penetrate the pasta and enhance the subtle pasta flavor – you can taste the difference. Use 1 tablespoon salt for 6 quarts of water when cooking one pound of pasta.
First, use enough pasta water when cooking the pasta. Fill a large pot with a very generous amount of water, typically 6 quarts of water for 1 pound of pasta; this is typically three-quarters full. Pasta needs enough water to cook evenly and to move around so it doesn’t clump. Second, toss the cooked, drained pasta in a tablespoon of oil before adding the dressing.
Tools Used in This Recipe
Cold Pasta Chicken Salad
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For the Salad
- 1 pound chicken breasts chopped into 1-inch pieces (may sub 3 cups shredded chicken)
- 1 pound rotini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 Roma tomatoes, seeded, chopped, drained on paper towels
- 1/4 cup packed basil, chopped
- 8 ounces mozzarella pearls
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup crushed garlic herb croutons
- Marinate chicken: In a medium bowl, whisk together the Balsamic Vinaigrette ingredients. Transfer 2 tablespoons to a freezer size bag or bowl with the chicken (chopped raw breasts or cooked shredded chicken). Marinate at room temperature for 15-30 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours. Store the remaining vinaigrette separately ("Reserved Vinaigrette").
- Cook pasta: Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente according to package directions in generously salted water. Drain and rinse the pasta, then transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with one tablespoon of the Reserved Vinaigrette to prevent the pasta from sticking together; set aside.
- Cook chicken: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken (discard marinade) and cook until cooked, flipping halfway through. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon to the pasta; don't wipe out the skillet.
- Combine: Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, Parmesan and basil to the pasta salad. Only add the vinaigrette when ready to serve. (This is one pasta salad best served immediately after combining. If not serving immediately, keep the vinaigrette and pasta separate). When ready to serve, drizzle with vinaigrette and top with crushed croutons.
- Adjust to taste: Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste. Balsamic can vary in strength and tanginess, so season with additional balsamic or honey to taste if desired. Serve immediately.
- Make ahead: Combine all of the chicken pasta salad ingredients together in a bowl EXCEPT for the croutons and vinaigrette. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Refrigerate the vinaigrette separately. When ready to serve, toss the salad with the dressing and season to taste.
- Storage: Cover leftover chicken pasta salad with plastic wrap or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days. The longer the pasta salad is refrigerated, the blander it will become. To prevent this, only add dressing to the pasta salad you are eating immediately. Otherwise, plan on seasoning leftovers with additional salt, pepper, balsamic, etc.
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