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No need to wreck your brain trying to come up with ideas on what to serve with a pasta salad – this easy chicken pasta salad is a complete meal! If you want to simplify your dinner time, this main dish pasta salad is the way to go!
If you are looking for a main dish that is easy to make, uses simple ingredients, feeds a crowd, is budget-friendly, makes great leftovers and doesn’t require any side dishes to go with it, you have found your perfect recipe! This easy chicken pasta salad recipe fits all these criteria, that’s why it’s an absolute keeper!
When we think of a pasta salad, we often imagine a side salad with a bunch of other food on the table to go with it. In fact, that was the side pasta salad that I was planning to make before I created this recipe on a whim. I felt like having some pasta salad, and was looking for an easy main dish to serve with it. “What should I serve with the pasta salad?” I thought. “A rotisserie chicken” was the answer in my head as I didn’t feel like cooking any more stuff!
So my plan was to make a pasta salad and serve it with the store-bought rotisserie chicken. As I was done with making the pasta salad, I realized that now I have to warm up the chicken for dinner and deal with the logistics of having multiple dishes on the table and having to cut and serve that chicken :) Then this great idea came to me – why not just cut-up that rotisserie chicken meat and toss it in the salad! Then I can be DONE! The whole dinner for the next 2 days will be in that giant pasta salad bowl, and I don’t even have to warm it, and everyone will serve themselves! Yay!
Since the pasta salad is supposed to marinate in the refrigerator, it still tastes amazing the next day, so it makes perfect leftovers! It’s also a great make-ahead dish for entertaining – just make it the day ahead and have less things to deal with on the day of the party :) No reheating needed and no hassle!
This chicken pasta salad is really healthy, and is a great way to get your veggies in. It uses common everyday ingredients – pasta, chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, tossed and marinated in Italian dressing. Feel free to be creative and add/subtract ingredients to your liking! Don’t like a certain vegetable? Just leave it out :) Gluten-free? Use gluten-free pasta! Want to cut fat? Use fat-free Italian dressing! Pasta salads are very forgiving to substitutions, you really can’t mess that dish up by swapping ingredients.
The main thing you need to remember to get this recipe to turn out right – do not overcook the pasta! Overcooked pasta = soggy pasta salad. The pasta must be al dente (tasting slightly undercooked) – it will soften to the right consistency as it marinates. Al dente pasta is the ultimate secret to a good pasta salad.
Another thing – do not add salt to the salad. Add salt to the boiling water when pasta cooks, but no other salt once the pasta is drained. Salt will release the juice from the veggies and make salad runny. Also, only use cherry tomatoes (not regular tomatoes) as regular tomatoes get mushy while cherry tomatoes stay fresh.
This recipe is great for your wallet too – it makes 8 main-dish servings of pasta salad for $10-$15 total, which is less than $2 per serving – what a great cheap way to feed a crowd on a budget! Pasta salads are also great for picnics and potlucks – this chicken pasta salad will be a hit at your next gathering!
Easy Chicken Pasta Salad
- 1 lb rotini pasta
- 1 store-bought rotisserie chicken
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 large seedless cucumber
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 small red onion
- 1/2 bottle 8 oz Italian dressing
- Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente (the pasta has to be al dente, it will soften as it marinates in refrigerator - do not overcook the pasta, or it will become mushy in the salad).
- Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients below.
- Separate the meat from the rotisserie chicken, chop into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside in a separate bowl.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in halves and put in a very large bowl (this will be the bowl for the pasta salad).
- Peel and chop the cucumber, and put in the same bowl as the tomatoes.
- Peel and finely chop the onion, and add to the tomatoes and cucumbers.
- Halve the bell pepper, scoop out and discard the seeds, then chop the pepper and add to the tomato bowl.
- Put the pasta in the same large bowl as tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and pepper. Pour the Italian dressing over the pasta, and toss until everything is well combined.
- Add the chicken to the pasta salad and toss until evenly distributed.
- Put the chicken pasta salad in the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 1 hour.