The best thing to have in the fridge on a warm summer day is a big bowl of Chicken Pasta Salad. It's loaded with bow tie noodles, crunchy peas and carrots, cubes of tender chicken, and sweet chewy bits of dried cranberries, then all coated with a light, tangy, creamy dressing. It's a wonderful meal all by itself, or serve it with corn on the cob or some grilled veggies - no dishes to do! Take it on a picnic or barbecue. It's a great snack, too! (Skip to recipe.)
Summer time is pasta salad time. Noodles are great cold; I love how versatile they are - you can toss almost anything cooked, crunchy, or raw in with some chewy cooked pasta, add your favourite dressing, and call it a pasta salad.
Are you in the creamy dressing camp, or the oil & vinegar dressing one? Frankly, I love them all.
Cooking with Eric
A pasta salad is an easy and fun dish for kids to practice cooking on. And this chicken pasta salad is especially tasty - we used cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but you can use any leftover cooked chicken or turkey for this recipe. The addition of chewy, tangy dried cranberries, along with crispy celery and carrots, and bright green peas add crunch and flavour. The creamy dressing is light and tangy. The chicken a adds a flavourful protein punch to make a complete meal. All together it provides a fantabulous light summer meal for those lazy hot days.
If you want to serve it as a side dish to a grilled meat, you can omit the chicken and just add a bit more pasta in its place. You'll still have the same chewy pasta with crunchy bits and a mild, creamy sauce to please your palate.
This Chicken Pasta Salad is Easy to Make
Just set your pasta on to boil. We used gluten free bow tie pasta.
Shred some carrots.
Cut up some tender cooked chicken. (Store-bought rotisserie chicken makes your job particularly easy!) Lots of great knife skills practice.
Drain and rinse the pasta in cold water.
Stir together the dressing and pour it all over the drained cooked pasta and other tasty ingredients. Then toss it together lightly so as not to break up the pasta or chicken. (We added the bowtie noodles last in this photo.) You can flavour the dressing with a teeny touch of curry powder or a sprinkle of fresh, chopped dill; either option is great.
It makes a nice big bowlful of tasty Chicken Pasta Salad. Serve yourself up a heaping helping!
For two great basic pasta salad variations, try these Macaroni Salads with Two Dressings (one dressing's creamy and one's a vinaigrette). You can customize a pasta salad in so many ways. Have fun with this one!
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Kitchen Frau Notes: Use any kind of pasta for this recipe: macaroni, fusilli, rotini, penne. . . I found these cute little gluten free bow-shaped corn farfalle, made by 'Le Veneziane', at our Italian Center Shop.
Frozen peas work beautifully here; they're already blanched and can be tossed right into the salad while still frozen - they'll thaw as you mix the salad and even help to keep it chilled. (I always have bags of frozen tiny peas in my freezer.)
- ½ cup sliced green onions (2 to 3)
- ½ cup shredded carrot
- ½ cup diced celery (¼" dice)
- ½ cup frozen peas
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 2 cups (280gms/10oz) diced, cooked chicken (¾ inch dice) - rotisserie chicken is great
- 4 cups cooked bowtie pasta, macaroni, or other pasta (250gms/9oz uncooked), gluten free if necessary
for the dressing:
- ½ cup (120ml) mayonnaise
- ¼ cup (60ml) plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup (60ml) milk
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon mustard (Dijon or prepared yellow mustard)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon curry powder or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Set a large pot of water on to the stove to boil. Add a large pinch of salt. Once the water boils, dump in the pasta. Stir it to prevent it from sticking and turn down the heat a little bit. Cook the pasta until it is 'al dente' which means it is still chewy, but not crunchy in the middle. Taste some to see if it's ready. Start testing it one minute before the cook time it says on the pasta package. When it's finished cooking, set a colander in the sink and pour the pasta into it. Rinse the pasta immediately under cold running water to cool it down and stop it from sticking.
While the pasta water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, chop the vegetables. Slice the green onions thinly crosswise, dice the celery into pea-sized cubes (cut it into long thin strips first), shred the celery on the largest holes of a box grater, and cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Put all the salad ingredients into a large bowl.
Put all the dressing ingredients into a large measuring cup or small bowl and whisk them together until they are smooth. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss everything together gently until it is evenly coated.
For more fun cooking projects to make with kids, see the ‘Cooking With Kids’ series here.
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