This Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad Recipe is packed with jazzed up rotisserie chicken, pasta, basil pesto, cherry tomatoes and toasted pecans – Perfect for lunch, summer barbecues or picnics.
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This post was originally published on 06/11/2019 but modified on 02/22/2022 to add more details. However, the recipe, photos and video remains the same.
Welcome to the second post on leftover rotisserie series – Cheap, convenient and the meat can be used in endless possibilities <— lunch, dinner, snack and even summer barbecues.
Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
Ain’t your old school pasta salad with chicken mixed in. It is simple with just 6 main, but carefully selected ingredients that give wonderful flavor and texture. The dressing is made with a creamy pesto mixture. It has a hint of spice, creaminess from mayo, crunch from pecans, juicy tomatoes with hearty sautéed chicken —-> So Satisfying!
The Secret Technique
The technique in making this Not-ANOTHER-BORING chicken pasta salad is that, shredded rotisserie chicken is sautéed in a skillet with a touch olive oil, salt and pepper. Chicken gets golden and crispy around the edges, adding more flavor and making it much more delicious. This recipe is a great way to use leftover ingredients, perfect for meal prep, school or work lunch, picnics and summer bbqs.
- Chicken – We use rotisserie chicken for convenience. Chopped meat is sautéed with olive oil, salt and pepper and cooled down before tossing into the salad. You could totally skip this step, but why would you when you could add so much additional flavor?
- Pasta – I preferred to use penne variety since we use a lot of it around here, like this Chicken Parmesan Pasta . But, you could totally use any other type of short noodle.
- Basil Pesto – Store bought basil pesto for convenience. Got more pesto? Try this Potato Pesto Grilled Cheese or Pesto Caprese Toast
- Mayo – Creamy goodness
- Cherry tomatoes – Fresh, vibrant, sweet, tart addition!
- Toasted Pecans – Gives a nutty, crunchy addition. Skip if you don’t have any.
Can I use other types of chicken ?
ABSOLUTELY! Here are your alternatives:
- Toss boneless, skinless thighs with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in a pre heated 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. Cool, chop into pieces.
- Chop boneless skinless thighs or breasts into small chunks and season with salt and pepper. Heat one or two tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick or cast iron skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Cool.
- Any leftover cooked Italian-style chicken (without much seasoning) from last night’s dinner.
Tips for success
Use any type of pasta shape you have around.
Make sure that the cooked pasta and chicken are both cooled to room temperature before mixing the salad.
Feel free to mix in any Italian ingredients like Sun dried tomatoes, olives, red onion, chopped garlic (cook along with chicken) to the dish.
Can this be made ahead?
A great recipe to be make ahead. Refrigerate in an air tight container for up to 5 days.
Can you Freeze it?
Unfortunately, pasta salads using mayo are not a good candidate for the freezer. Too many of the ingredients just don’t hold up well – Mayonnaise separates and fresh tomatoes turn to icky mush. But don’t you worry, there will probably not any leftovers remaining.
Serve at room temperature
This is a really great summer staple. We love it both at room temperature (I think it tastes a touch better at room temperature) or cold. The dressing does not get pasty when cold and you can taste the flavors as well.
How to make?
Cook pasta – Cook until al dente and cool or use leftover cooked noodles.
Saute chicken – Chop rotisserie chicken into bite size pieces, and stir fry with a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper, cool completely.
Toast Pecans – Place pecans in sheet pan and bake for 5-10 minutes in a pre heated 350 degree oven, until toasted. Cool and chop.
Finish – Stir together pasta, meat, basil pesto, mayo, halved cherry tomatoes, toasted pecans, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Refrigerate if not serving right away.
More Chicken Pasta recipes to try
- Penne alla vodka
- Alfredo Pasta Casserole
- Pink Sauce Chicken Pasta
- Baked Ziti with ground Chicken
- Spicy Pasta
- Butter Chicken Pasta
- Creamy Pesto pasta
- Parmesan Pasta
- Instant pot Alfredo
Cold Chicken Pasta Salad with Pesto
- Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente — soft with just a bit of chew — 7-8 minutes or according to package directions. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.Quickly cool the pasta. Drain the pasta in a colander and run under cold water. Dunk the colander in the ice bath and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Drain the pasta very well.
- Toss rotisserie chicken with olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper in a non-stick or cast iron skillet. Place pan over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally until chicken is slightly crisped and gets golden brown bits. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.
Make creamy chicken pesto pasta salad
- Add cooked pasta, sautéed chicken, halved cherry tomatoes, toasted pecans, basil pesto, mayo, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Toss well. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving time or pack into meal prep containers and store in the refrigerator.
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