Chicken Pasta Salad

This tangy chicken pasta salad is packed with Mediterranean flavors and is our family-favorite summer lunch or dinner! It’s a…

This tangy chicken pasta salad is packed with Mediterranean flavors and is our family-favorite summer lunch or dinner! It’s a mix of tender chicken, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, and a zesty vinaigrette.

Chicken Pasta Salad on plate with lemons and spoon

Summer is pasta salad season, in our opinion. Here’s a new recipe our entire family goes crazy over: this chicken pasta salad! It’s full of bright Mediterranean-inspired flavors, and so fun and carefree, Alex and I love it for patio meals or picnic lunches.

The chicken is easy to pan sear and comes out so flavorful! Pair that with both fresh and sun dried tomatoes, tangy artichokes, Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, and a zesty vinaigrette, and the mixture of flavors and textures is unreal! It’s a spin this popular tortellini salad we’ve been making for years, and this chicken version is a new fave.

“This dish is amazing. The flavors are spot on. Such a refreshing summer dish. I put the chicken breasts on the grill. Very easy recipe. Can’t wait to make it again!” -Nancy

Ingredients in this chicken pasta salad recipe

We love this chicken pasta salad recipe as a lunch idea (it saves well for days) or a simple dinner on the patio. It’s also great as a summer side dish for a potluck or barbecue. While the ingredient list in the recipe below may seem long, never fear! Many are pantry staples.

  • Chicken: You’ll need chicken cutlets here, or you can butterfly the chicken yourself (simply slice it in half horizontally).
  • Penne pasta: We like penne pasta in a pasta salad, but you can use other short pasta like fusilli (spirals) or shells.
  • Cherry tomatoes and sundried tomatoes: Two types of tomatoes add big flavor.
  • Canned artichoke hearts: Artichokes bring a signature tang: these are required!
  • Red onion, arugula, garlic, and parsley (optional): These fresh ingredients round out the fresh flavors.
  • Fresh lemon: Both the zest and juice add big flavor to this recipe.
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese: This savory, chewy element makes the salad extremely satisfying. Omit it for dairy-free.
  • Seasonings and pantry ingredients: Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, smoked paprika, and salt round out the seasonings list. Olive oil is used for cooking the chicken and the dressing, and red wine vinegar makes a pop in the dressing.

How to make chicken pasta salad (basic steps)

This chicken pasta salad recipe requires about 30 minutes of prep time to cook the chicken, boil the pasta, and make the dressing. There are a few things you can do in advance (see below). Here are the basic steps:

Step 1: Pan sear the chicken breast.

Step 1: Mix the chicken cutlets with salt and seasonings. Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until browned on both sides. Rest 5 minutes before slicing into cubes, then measure out 2 ½ cups to add to the salad.

Step 2: Boil the pasta.

Step 2: Boil the pasta in salted water until it is just al dente. Start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes.

Step 3: Whisk the dressing.

Step 3: Whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning, and kosher salt. Chop the tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, onion, and herbs.

Step 4: Once the pasta is done, immediately place it in a bowl with the vegetables, dressing, cooked chicken, Parmesan cheese shavings, arugula, and fresh ground black pepper. Serve and enjoy!

Chicken pasta salad with hands holding the platter

💡Why buy organic chicken? We recommend buying organic since it’s the high-quality meat that is raised sustainably without chemicals. Organic standards require that the chickens have access to the outdoors and cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones (happy chickens!).

Variations: other vegetables & cooking methods

There are loads of ways to mix up this chicken pasta salad — here are a few ideas we love!

  • Grilled chicken: One recipe tester used grilled chicken and said it was delicious: we love this idea!
  • Spinach or kale: Use these greens instead of the arugula
  • Fresh or canned corn: Adding corn adds a nice summery element.
  • Other vegetables: like zucchini, bell pepper, or olives are great adders
  • Feta cheese: Using feta instead of Parmesan adds another pop of salt.
  • Basil, dill or oregano: these herbs are also delicious (keep in mind, basil turns brown during storage).

Storing leftovers and make ahead info

This chicken pasta salad recipe stores up to 5 days refrigerated and still tastes great! Before serving leftovers, allow them to come to room temperature and add a swirl more olive oil or a bit more salt as necessary.

Another option for making this pasta salad ahead is cooking the chicken and pasta and making the dressing, then refrigerating them separately. Right before serving, chop the vegetables and mix together the ingredients.

More pasta salad recipes

We’ve made so many pasta salad recipes, and each one has a place in our hearts! Here are some of our favorites:

Frequently asked questions

Can I make this salad ahead of time?

Absolutely! This salad is a great make-ahead option. You can prepare all the components separately, store them in the refrigerator, and combine them just before serving. The flavors will meld and develop even more over time.

Can I substitute the arugula with another leafy green?

While arugula offers a peppery bite that complements the other ingredients, you can substitute it with spinach, kale, or even romaine lettuce if you prefer a milder flavor.

How can I add more protein to this salad?

If you’d like to increase the protein content, consider adding cooked chickpeas or white beans to the salad (increase the salt as well to account for the additional ingredients).

How do I store leftover chicken pasta salad?

Store any leftover salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. The arugula may wilt slightly over time, but the overall flavor will remain delicious

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Chicken Pasta Salad

Chicken Pasta Salad


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6

Description

This tangy chicken pasta salad is packed with Mediterranean flavors and makes for a satisfying summer lunch or dinner! It’s a stellar mix of tender chicken, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, and a zesty vinaigrette.


Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 4 cutlets (about 1 pound, organic if possible)
  • 1 to 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, and smoked paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

 

For the pasta salad: 

  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or chives, optional
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (or ½ teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • ¼ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook the chicken: Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and sprinkle on both sides with the kosher salt*. In a small bowl, mix the garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, smoked paprika, and a few grinds of black pepper, then sprinkle over the chicken. Add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until browned on both sides. When the internal temperature is 165°F or the center is no longer pink, remove to a plate. Rest 5 minutes before slicing into cubes, then measure out 2 ½ cups to add to the salad.
  2. Start a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Boil the pasta until al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and run cool water over it until it is room temperature.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, onion, and parsley or chives as noted in the ingredients list above.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning, and kosher salt. Then whisk in the olive oil.
  5. As soon as the pasta is done, add it to the large bowl of dressing and toss with the chopped vegetables and herbs. Add the arugula, Parmesan cheese, and fresh ground black pepper and stir to combine. 
  6. Taste and add more salt to taste if necessary. Serve immediately. Stores up to 5 days refrigerated (leftovers taste great; allow to come to room temperature and add a swirl more olive oil or a bit more salt as necessary).

Notes

*Note: If the chicken is closer to 1 ½ pounds, use up to 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt. If you buy the chicken as breasts that are not already butterflied or cutlets, butterfly the chicken by placing your hand over the top of each chicken breast and using a sharp knife to carefully slice the breast horizontally, leaving the edge intact so it can open up like a book (or butterfly!). Unfold the breast like a book, then cut along the fold to separate the two halves.

  • Category: Pasta salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

grilled feta with asparagus chimichurri

My superpower? Dropping recipes so late on the Friday of a holiday weekend, absolutely nobody will see them. Well, except you. I’m here for us last-minute planners, we indecisive “I want to make something new this weekend, but noth…

My superpower? Dropping recipes so late on the Friday of a holiday weekend, absolutely nobody will see them. Well, except you. I’m here for us last-minute planners, we indecisive “I want to make something new this weekend, but nothing has jumped out at me.” I hope we can stop scrolling now.

grilled feta with asparagus chimichurri-02
grilled feta with asparagus chimichurri-07

I haven’t been able to get Jessica Merchant’s chimichurri and pistachio grilled feta out of my head since it crossed my social media threshold a couple weeks ago. I’ve been on a green chimichurri kick (how 90s!) for the last month when I realized, after making some in preparation for the grilled chicken episode of The Recipe with Kenji and Deb that I never needed to let leftover parsley go to waste again. A bundle so easily makes a batch of one of the greatest of all the great fresh green sauces and I’ve been putting it on everything since… but feta. Until now.

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How to Cook Farro

Here’s how to cook farro, an ancient grain with a chewy texture! Plus, browse our top farro recipes: side dishes,…

A Couple Cooks – Recipes worth repeating.

Here’s how to cook farro, an ancient grain with a chewy texture! Plus, browse our top farro recipes: side dishes, salads, soups and more.

Farro

Looking for a fun side dish idea, or a whole grain to make a killer salad? Farro is a whole grain that can be used as an alternative to rice, barley or other grains. We love it for its chewy texture and nutty taste. There’s nothing better than tossing this grain with butter, garlic and fresh herbs as a simple side dish! You can use this grain to whip up all sorts of recipes, and it’s become easy to find at the grocery. Here’s how to cook farro so it’s perfectly tender, and some of our favorite farro recipes for using it.

What is farro?

Farro is a whole grain that’s plump and chewy, with a texture similar to barley. It’s an ancient grain that was eaten in the Roman empire and even found in Egyptian tombs. Farro has been a staple in Italian cuisine for centuries, and spread to global popularity with the recent interest in whole grains. Farro can be boiled on the stovetop, cooked in a rice cooker or in a pressure cooker (Instant Pot). There are a few types you can find in American grocery stores:

  • Pearled farro has all of the bran removed from the grain, making it quicker to cook but removing some fiber. The cook time is 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Semi-pearled farro has part of the bran removed, retaining some additional fiber. The cook time is 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Whole farro is the whole grain and takes the longest to cook. It’s the hardest to find in grocery stores. The cook time is 30 to 40 minutes.

The recipe in this article is for pearled and semi-pearled farro. As a note, the labeling of this grain in the grocery store can be confusing. Many packages don’t contain the words pearled or semi-pearled. Check the cook time on the package as a guide, then follow our recipe below.

Uncooked farro in measuring cup

How to cook farro

Farro is easy to cook on the stovetop. For every 1 cup of farro, you’ll need 3 cups of water or broth for it to fully cook through. Then drain any excess liquid once it is tender, which is different from grains like rice or quinoa. Here are the basic steps for how to cook farro (or jump to the recipe below):

  1. Rinse: Rinse the grains under cold water in a fine mesh strainer.
  2. Add water: In a large saucepan, place 1 cup farro, 3 cups water and ½ teaspoon kosher salt and bring it to a boil.
  3. Simmer: Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until the grains are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes for pearled and 25 to 30 minutes for semi-pearled.
  4. Drain: Drain any excess water. Stir in an additional ¼ teaspoon salt.

More FAQ

Here are a few more facts about farro:

  • How much does 1 cup dry farro make? About 2 to 2 ½ cups cooked.
  • What are other names for farro? Spelt, emmer, and einkorn are other names for the grain in English that denote different sizes, from largest to smallest. Emmer is what you’ll find in most American stores. In Italy farro is labeled to denote its size as farro grande, farro medio, and farro piccolo.
Farro in bowl with lemons and uncooked farro

How to season as a side dish

Want to serve farro as a simple side dish? Transform it into garlic herb farro! It’s fast and easy, and it makes this grain taste irresistible. Here’s what to add to the pot once you’ve drained it:

  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, like fresh thyme, chives, oregano or basil

Top farro recipes

Want to cook up a pot of this whole grain to use in recipes? Farro is an especially great base for grain salads. Mix it with some fresh or cooked vegetables, and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Or add it to soups and stews as an alterative to barley! Here are a few of our top farro recipes and serving suggestions for this ancient grain:

This farro recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Farro

How to Cook Farro


  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4

Description

Learning how to cook farro is quite straightforward. In this recipe, we show you how to cook farro and how we like to flavor it with garlic and herbs.

Note: For how to cook farro in a pressure cooker, go to Instant Pot Farro.


Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked farro, pearled or semi-pearled (not whole)
  • 3 cups water
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, chives, or basil), optional
  • 1 garlic clove, minced, optional

Instructions

  1. Rinse the farro under cold water in a fine mesh strainer. In a large saucepan, place the farro, water and ½ teaspoon of the kosher salt and bring it to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the grains are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes for pearled farro and 25 to 30 minutes for semi-pearled farro. Taste test a grain to see if it is tender (if the package is unmarked, just cook until tender).
  3. Drain any excess water. Add the additional ¼ teaspoon salt and the olive oil or butter. If using, stir in the minced garlic and herbs. Taste and add additional salt if desired. 
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: farro, how to cook farro, farro recipes, farro recipe

 

A Couple Cooks - Recipes worth repeating.