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Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

Are you looking for a delicious way to make an easy way to make pesto into an easy and satisfying pasta lunch? Just add chicken!

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First, it started with chicken pesto, then it progressed to a pesto pasta salad, and now it’s fully evolved into a chicken pesto pasta salad. Talk about a delicious and satisfying lunch. Pesto, pasta, and chicken are already such a match made in heaven, then you throw a few Caprese ingredients in, like mini mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes, and you’ve got yourself a delicious lunch. And that’s all it takes folks!

Pesto was one of the first things I learned about in my culinary education. I thought there was always one right way to make pesto. Fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan. It wasn’t until I got older that I learned pesto is just a technique. If you mix all these categories of flavor, you will end up with a tasty herby paste. In this recipe, we’re making pesto out of more than just basil. I’ve included arugula and parsley in my pesto to give the dish as a whole a more earthy pasta salad flavor just because I get a little bored of the traditional pesto flavor when I go back for seconds and thirds. Your pesto, your choice.

The best part of pasta salad to me is how little pasta you need to make a bountiful lunch. That’s why I always keep half boxes of pasta in the pantry. I call it my pasta salad pasta and sometimes I even mix my cut pasta like a trail mix. A different shape with every bite!

These carby salads are easy to customize with whatever leftovers you have in the fridge, but it’s usually served as a side dish to the main meal. When you add protein to the side dish, it balances things out a bit more. It’s like adding chicken breast to your dinner salad at a restaurant. Goes from a side dish to the main event just like that. The bonus from mixing chicken into the pesto is how the herby paste compliments the chicken, it just makes every bite of pasta salad that much better. I can eat this salad for a whole week straight.

Yield(s): Makes 6 cups

8m prep time

10m cook time

2h inactive

Allergens: Gluten

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For assembly:
  • 8 oz. fusilli pasta
  • 1 1/4 cups cooked chicken breast, diced
  • 1 1/4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup mozzarella balls
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
For pesto:
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup baby arugula
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Preparation
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and set aside.
  2. For pesto, add all ingredients to a measuring cup and using an immersion blender combine all ingredients until a smooth pesto is formed. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, chicken breast, arugula, grape tomatoes, mozzarella balls and finely chopped onion.
  4. Drizzle ingredients with pesto and toss to combine.
  5. Let sit in the fridge for at least two hours to let all the flavors marry together.

Recipe adapted from Cookie and Kate.