This Chicken Pasta Salad with colorful veggies, dreamy mozzarella pearls, juicy chicken, and whole wheat noodles tossed in a simple Italian dressing solves one of life’s greatest conundrums: What should I eat for lunch today?
This recipe is sponsored by DeLallo.
It’s also the correct response to What should I bring to the potluck? and HELP! I need easy, healthy dinners.
Pasta salads of all stripes are a summertime staple (Italian Pasta Salad and Mexican Pasta Salad are two faves around here), but often they are lacking.
- Too many noodles, soggy dressing, and a lack of vibrancy often mean pasta salads are more of a filler than something you feel excited about putting on your plate.
- Or, due to a lack of protein and vegetables, they might be good enough for a side dish, but not substantial enough to enjoy as a meal.
This simple chicken pasta salad is what happens when pasta salad lives up to its full, delicious potential.
- Healthy. Thanks to whole grains, lean protein, and veggies.
- Satisfying. Creamy mozzarella pearls and extra-virgin olive oil add the necessary fats that are key to making you feel satiated.
- DELISH. Fresh herbs, garlic, and red wine vinegar wake up the salad and make it one you’ll want to eat again and again.
You can eat chicken pasta salad cold right out of the fridge or enjoy it at room temperature, and it’s perfectly portable for lunches and gatherings.
Ready to make the best chicken pasta salad?
Your friends (and yourself!) are going to thank you!
How to Make Chicken Pasta Salad
This healthy chicken pasta salad hits every food group in a single bowl.
Thanks to plenty of veggies, protein, and wholesome whole grains, you can feel good enjoying it as a meal on its own or sharing it with friends as a part of a larger spread.
- Whole Wheat Pasta. I always choose DeLallo‘s whole wheat pasta because the quality is unmatched. Unlike other brands I’ve tried, their whole wheat pasta has a mild flavor and nice al dente texture. It works wonderfully in this pasta salad. Whole wheat pasta contains more fiber and iron per serving than white pasta, making it a nutritious swap (I promise no one will notice!).
- Chicken. Using one of my foolproof methods below, you can prepare perfectly cooked, tender chicken breast for this salad. It helps make the salad more filling.
Cut this recipe time even further by swapping in precooked chicken, made with one of these easy methods (or even store bought rotisserie chicken):
- Asparagus. Bright green and crisp-tender, the asparagus adds texture to the salad. It’s also extremely healthy. Asparagus is packed with fiber and antioxidants.
- Red Onion. Adds a subtle bite.
- Red Bell Pepper. Crisp, sweet, and colorful.
- Artichoke Hearts. Adding canned artichokes is an easy way to sneak in another tasty veggie. Artichokes are rich in fiber and vitamins.
- Tomatoes. Juicy, sweet, and perfect in this pasta salad.
- Mozzarella. Mozzarella pearls are the ideal size for a pasta salad like this one. They also taste fantastic with the other ingredients.
- Basil. Fresh basil is a simple finishing touch that makes a world of difference. Fresh parsley can also be used here.
- Dressing. Skip making chicken pasta salad with Italian dressing from a bottle. I created a simple and light homemade dressing from red wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes. It has zip and a hint of spice.
- Cook and cube (or shred) the chicken.
- Cook the asparagus, then transfer it to an ice bath. Pat dry.
- Cook the pasta. Drain and rinse it with cool water.
- Add onion, vinegar, asparagus, bell pepper, artichokes, tomatoes, mozzarella, and chicken to a bowl.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together.
- Add the pasta to the bowl with the vegetables. Pour in part of the dressing.
- Stir in the basil.
- Add dressing to taste. ENJOY!
- To Store. Refrigerate pasta salad in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, cook and cube the chicken, chop the onion, asparagus, red bell pepper, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and garlic. Refrigerate each ingredient separately until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Even a small amount of leftovers can become a meal. Stir rinsed and drained canned chickpeas into the leftovers to make them even more filling. Add arugula to bump up the veggies.
I have a serving of this waiting in my fridge as I type.
I cannot wait for lunch time—and for you to try it too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can make this recipe without the chicken. If you need the recipe to be vegetarian, you could try swapping in rinsed and drained chickpeas or white beans for extra protein. You can also just omit the chicken.
For a different protein option, use my Shrimp Pasta Salad for inspiration and try this recipe with shrimp instead.
This recipe is not spicy as written. If you enjoy your pasta salad with a kick, you can add more red pepper flakes to taste. You can reduce or omit the red pepper flakes if you prefer to have no trace of spice.
If your grocery store doesn’t sell mozzarella pearls, you can purchase sliced or unsliced fresh mozzarella instead. Cut the mozzarella into small cubes before adding it to the salad.
- 3 cups cooked, cubed chicken about 3 medium breasts
- 1 pound asparagus or green beans trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional for cooking the asparagus and pasta
- 16 ounces DeLallo Whole Wheat Farfalle (Bowtie) Pasta or similar short, tubular pasta
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion about ½ small
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar divided
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 1 (14-ounce) can DeLallo Artichoke Hearts drained, cut into bite-sized pieces, and patted dry
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes halved
- 4 ounces mozzarella pearls about 1 cup
- 1/4 cup DeLallo Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil or 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Prepare an ice bath and set it near the stove. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add the asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender and bright green, about 2 to 3 minutes (green beans may need a minute longer). With a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the ice bath to stop its cooking (do not drain the boiling liquid). Let the asparagus cool for 2 to 3 minutes, then with the slotted spoon, transfer it to towels and pat dry.
Return the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain into a colander, then rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Shake the colander several times, then set the colander on towels or a plate and allow the water to continue to drain. You can also set it in the sink to drain (just don’t forget about it and accidentally add soap).
In a VERY large bowl, place the onion. Add the 2 tablespoons of the vinegar. Add the asparagus, bell pepper, artichokes, tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, and chicken (no need to stir again just yet).
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup with a spout, briskly whisk together the oil, mustard, garlic, oregano, black pepper, red pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar until the ingredients all come together into a smooth dressing.
Shake the pasta in the colander once more to remove any last water, then add it to the bowl with the vegetable mixture.
Pour in about 2/3 of the dressing, then stir to coat.
Stir in the basil.
Taste, add additional dressing, and season with additional salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes as desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover pasta salad in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
Serving: 1(of 8)Calories: 474kcalCarbohydrates: 52gProtein: 30gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 56mgPotassium: 565mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1853IUVitamin C: 47mgCalcium: 142mgIron: 5mg
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I am sharing this post in partnership with DeLallo. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands and companies that make it possible for me to continue to create quality content for you!