This Chicken Pasta Salad is full of all kinds of flavorful ingredients to make it a favorite salad to serve at holiday gatherings, parties and summer barbecues.
I’ve been making this salad for parties at my house for the last 15 years. It’s easy to make, and it’s the kind of salad where everyone asks for the recipe. The recipe makes a large amount, so it’s perfect for sharing with a lot of people.
How to make Chicken Pasta Salad:
Cook bowtie pasta according to package directions. If you can’t find bowtie, you can use another kind of medium pasta like rotini or penne. Place the cooked pasta and several cups of shredded roasted chicken (the kind you buy at the market) in a bowl. If you prefer to cook your own chicken, there are instructions in the recipe at the end of this post explaining how to make your own.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour the dressing over the pasta and the chicken and toss. Refrigerate the pasta and chicken with the dressing for several hours or overnight.
Toss the pasta and chicken with the remaining ingredients just before serving.
What makes this salad so special?
There are so many different flavors going on in this salad! Sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, bacon and pine nuts are the magical ingredients. You can always substitute regular chopped tomatoes for the sun dried tomatoes (though sun dried have so much flavor!) And chopped pecans may be substituted for pine nuts.
How to toast pine nuts:
To quickly toast the pine nuts, just put them in a small fry pan over medium heat. Watch them closely, and use a wooden spoon to move them around until they are lightly toasted. Be careful- they’ll burn if you don’t tend to them! Pour them onto a paper towel to cool before adding them to your salad. I like to buy pine nuts at Costco. They’re less expensive there, and you can keep the big bag in the freezer and use them as needed.
I love that there are greens added into this chicken pasta salad. That turns the salad into a green salad too!
How to cook bacon in the oven:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Lay the bacon on the baking sheet. Don’t overlap the bacon or it will all stick together! Bake the bacon for 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp. The time varies depending on how thick your bacon is. Move the bacon slices to paper towels to drain. Consider making bacon stuffed cherry tomatoes too!
Leftovers of this salad don’t keep very well because of the added greens to the salad. So be sure to serve it at a gathering where you know it’s likely to be all gobbled up. Enjoy!
Chicken Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces bowtie pasta, cooked and drained
- 4 to 5 cups chopped roasted chicken (see recipe notes below)
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons granulated white sugar
- 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, (or more, to taste)
- 16 ounces mixed salad greens
- ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- ½ cup chopped green onion
- ½ cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup crumbled cooked bacon
- 1 cup toasted pine nuts
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta and chicken.
PREPARE THE DRESSING:
- In a medium bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together. Pour the dressing over cooked noodles and chicken. Cover and marinate overnight in refrigerator.
ASSEMBLE THE SALAD:
- Add remaining salad ingredients and toss.¼
- *Sun-dried tomatoes are sold pre-packaged and already cut into strips (rather than packed in oil). To soften them up, put them in a small bowl of water and microwave for 2 minutes! Or use oil-packed sun dried tomatoes.
- To make your own chicken: Sauté 4 chicken breasts with cup chopped onion, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary and 1 clove minced garlic in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and cut into bite-sized pieces. Discard the onion.
- To toast pine nuts: Put them in a small fry pan over medium heat. Watch them closely, and use a wooden spoon to move them around until they are lightly toasted. Be careful- they’ll burn if you don’t tend to them! Lay them on a paper towel to cool.