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Pasta salad meets green salad in this tasty Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad. A great summer BBQ side but hearty enough to serve for dinner on it’s own.
This is my rendition of a gem of a recipe that was published in Cooking Light back in 1997. Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it? Well friends, it was nearly 20 years ago.
Lately, I’ve been feeling as if time is passing at an accelerated rate of speed. I think it’s the time of year with all the graduations and the change from spring to summer that does it to me.
This weekend is going to be a big, fat, emotional roller coaster extravaganza around here. We’ll be attending Boy #2’s college grad ceremony on Saturday and Boy #4 is coming home from his college in Santa Barbara for the long weekend. Graduations, kids coming home for Memorial Day weekend, all of us together, hugging and singing, and dancing…okay, those last two things won’t happen but a mom can dream.
I’m stocking up on Kleenex and carbs to prepare.
This recipe a mashup of sorts – think pasta salad meets green salad and you’ve got the idea. It may sound strange but trust me, it works beautifully. Crisp lettuce, al dente spiral pasta, ripe cherry tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and toasty croutons, all coated in creamy Caesar dressing. Yeah, it works.
You can make things incredibly simple by taking advantage of store-bought rotisserie chicken, bottled Caesar dressing, and packaged croutons. Or, go the extra mile and do it all from scratch. I chose to do a little of both.
I cooked up some boneless skinless chicken breast, seasoned it with a little garlic pepper, and chopped it into small bite-size pieces. To brighten up the flavor, I squeezed the juice of half a lemon over the cooked, chopped chicken.
To assemble the salad, grab a large mixing bowl and combine a pound of fusilli pasta (cooked according to the package directions and rinsed immediately with cool water), a couple of cups of chopped romaine lettuce, chopped green onion, halved cherry or grape tomatoes, and finely sliced basil.
Bottled Caesar dressing is one of the shortcuts I chose to go with. There are many fine brands out there but I’m fond of Cardini’s. Of course, it would be delicious with a from scratch dressing like my Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing.
Add the cooked, chopped chicken, plenty of fresh ground black pepper, and the croutons. Toss it all together with the dressing, sprinkle with some shaved Parmesan cheese and you’re ready to serve.
I chose to make my own croutons because I LOVE homemade croutons. The packaged variety tend to be too dry for my taste. I like to pull them out of the oven when they are toasty but still have a bit of chewiness to them. So amazing! To see how I make my own croutons take a look THIS post.
The salad can be assembled ahead of time but it’s best to dress it just before serving since pasta has a tendency to absorb salad dressing (sort of like me). So, if you’re making it ahead, assemble it as directed but add the romaine lettuce, dressing, and croutons just before serving for the best result.
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- 3/4 pound boneless skinless thin-sliced chicken breast
- 2 teaspoons garlic pepper
- 1 lemon
- 1 pound fusili or rotini pasta cooked according to package directions and immediately rinsed with cold water
- 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 1 1/2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup Caesar salad dressing store bought or homemade
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups croutons store bought or homemade
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook thin sliced chicken for about 3 or 4 minutes per side, seasoning with garlic pepper as it cooks. When chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in center, remove from heat and transfer to a cutting board. Chop chicken into small bite-size pieces, squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the top and toss to combine. Allow to cool while assembling the salad.
- In a large mixing bowl combine cooked and cooled pasta, romaine, tomatoes, green onion, and basil. Add Caesar salad dressing and toss to combine. Add cooked, chopped chicken (which should be slightly cool by now), plenty of fresh ground black pepper, and the croutons. Toss again, sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and serve.
To save time, use store-bought rotisserie chicken in place of the boneless, skinless chicken breast and omit garlic pepper.
Adapted from: Cooking Light