Caprese salad is one of those things I could eat and eat and eat and never get sick of, and the same goes for this pasta salad. It’s kind of all the different and light flavors I love all wrapped up in one.
When I made this the first time I was blown away by how much flavor I had finally managed to pack into a pasta salad, I had been experimenting for a long time and felt like this was my eureka moment.
So ever since then, I’ve been making big batches of this pretty often and having it throughout the week, sending it in lunches for my husband, or letting the kids snack on it whenever they’re feeling particularly hungry and can’t wait for dinner. Or, sometimes, it is dinner!
First, I added 1/4 cup of olive oil and 4 tablespoons plus a little spillage of balsamic vinegar in a large bowl, and then threw in some very roughly ground parsley and cashew pesto I made earlier. For this recipe I make it roughly ground because I like the bite of the bigger chunks of herbs and cashews in this salad in particular. I also use this same recipe when making traditional pesto, and just blend it until creamy and smooth.
To make the pesto I just tossed into a food processor about 1 cup parsley, 2 tbsp chopped chives, 2 tbsps of ground Parmesan, the juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tbsp roasted cashews, salt and pepper to taste, and about 1/4- 1/2 cup olive oil. I excluded the garlic clove in this recipe, which is traditionally used in pesto, because I knew I was going to keep in roughly ground and I didn’t want big pieces of raw garlic running through the pasta salad. Then, I just pulsed it a few times to get the ingredients to come together.
Then, I gave it a good whisk to get the oil and vinegar as emulsified as possible. If I’m feeling particularly spicy, at this stage I would add about 1/2 tbsp of crushed red pepper flakes. This time I knew the kids would be eating, so I decided to leave them out.
Once the dressing was mixed, I tossed in about a cup of halved cherry tomatoes, 8oz of pearled mozzarella balls, and about 1/2 cup cubed chicken. I usually use whatever leftover chicken I have laying around or rotesserie chicken from the grocery store. I think pasta salads, and just salads in general, are a great way to use up leftovers. With that being said, obviously you can throw whatever sounds good into this salad.
So once I mixed all the ingredients and got everything well coated with sauce I added about 1 tbsp of roughly chopped basil, mixed it gently, and done!
This salad truly gets better the longer it sits. Everything sort of comes together and the flavors meld.
I also love the fact that after eating this for lunch, I don’t feel like I need an hour to sit and digest, or get that sluggish yucky feeling. It’s light and quick, because with 2 little people running around, it’s not often I have the time to make myself a meal. I hope you enjoy as much as we do!
Chicken Caprese Pasta Salad
Yield: 8 Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
For the pesto:
1/2 cup parsley
2 tbsp. Chives
Juice on 1 lemon
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. Cashews
4-5 basil leaves
2 tbsp. Grated Parmesan cheese
For the pasta:
1/2 lb. bowtie pasta (cooked and cooled)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 heaping tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup parsley pesto
1/2 cup diced chicken breast
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 cup or 8oz. mozzarella cheese, pearled or diced into 1/2 inch cubes
4 basil leaves chopped
Salt and pepper
For the pesto:
Combine the parsley, lemon juice, parmesean, cashews, chives, basil in a food processor and begin to blend, slowly stream in olive oil and blend until fully combined. If the pesto looks dry, add a little more olive oil until smooth. Set aside.
For the pasta:
To begin, boil about 1/2 lb. of bowtie pasta until al-dente, drain and cool for about 1 hr in the refrigerator. Next, in a large bowl whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and pesto until emulsified. Next mix in the chicken, grape tomatoes, mozzarella and cooled pasta. Then, add chopped basil and gently mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Serve and enjoy!