Now that my kids have headed back to school, the lazy days of summer are behind us. Every afternoon we have a hectic schedule of homework, dinner, a sport, packing lunches for the next day, then our bedtime rituals. Knowing that we were going to be hitting the ground running as soon as the kids got home from their first day of school, I made a crockpot chicken dinner to take some of the stress out of the busy dinner hour. Since I had some great chicken stock left over, I decided to make my favorite chicken pasta salad recipe that we could easily divide up between the six of us for lunches the next day.
I like to use the Wacky Mac bowtie pasta because the kids like the fun shape and colors and I like the healthy ingredients (the pasta gets its interesting colors from tomatoes, beets, and spinach). Nutritionally, it has more protein and less sodium than Barilla’s veggie farfalle (aka bowtie pasta). If you want another option, go with Barilla Plus farfalle. It has slightly more sodium and fat than Wacky Mac, but fewer carbs, more protein, more dietary fiber and a teeny bit of calcium. This is a good choice if you have a child that is skeptical of anything that is green (like my younger son). By the way, I’m not being paid by either company to promote these products, they just happen to be the ones my family likes best. By all means, if you have a favorite brand stick with it. The small variations in pasta won’t affect the flavor of this dish.
Since I have a teenaged son, we didn’t have any chicken leftover from dinner so I boiled three boneless, skinless chicken breasts in water mixed with leftover broth from our chicken dinner. In a separate pot, I boiled the pasta. While they were cooking, I diced the onions, celery and red bell pepper. I also shredded the carrots and washed the grapes. When the chicken and noodles were done, I drained both separately. I put the pasta in a bowl and tossed it with just a little bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together. I let the chicken cool slightly and then diced it. Here’s what everything looked like before I combined them all:
I just love the rainbow of colors! By the way, when I normally make this, I just automatically add everything to the bowl. It’s only for the benefit of providing you with pretty pictures that I dirtied several different dishes this time. I do, however, season the chicken before I add it to the other ingredients. The chicken absorbs more of the flavor from the seasonings than the other ingredients so you get the most flavor mileage if you keep the chicken separate for this step. I added garlic powder, black pepper, and salt, then tossed the chicken to coat all the pieces well. You can see from the picture that the chicken is heavily seasoned.
After that, I just tossed everything in the pasta bowl and mixed well.
Finally, I was ready to finish off the dish with the sauce. I combined the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and orange juice in a bowl, making sure to stir well. Then, I added the sauce to the pasta mixture and stirred it in until all the pieces were coated. You will notice that the recipe doesn’t make a lot of sauce. That’s intentional. My kids don’t care for mayonnaise so I use just enough sauce to keep the salad from being dry. Here was the final result:
You can serve this right away, but I prefer the flavor after it’s sat for a while. Since ours sat overnight, it was extra flavorful. The sweetness of the grapes and orange juice and the fun shape and color of the pasta helps make this dish appealing to my kids. The healthy ingredients and delicious combination of sweet and savory flavors make this a favorite for me and my husband. I hope your family enjoys it as much as we do.
Chicken Pasta Salad
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 pkg Wacky Mac Veggie Bows or Barilla Plus Farfalle pasta
- 1 T garlic powder
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 2 cups red, seedless grapes
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup non-fat, plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 2 T orange juice
- Boil chicken in 2 cups chicken broth plus 3 cups water for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
- Season chicken with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Combine pasta, seasoned chicken, celery, onion, bell pepper, carrots, and grapes in large bowl. Mix well.
- In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt or sour cream, and lemon juice. Mix well.
- Fold mayonnaise sauce into pasta mixture, stirring well to coat all the ingredients with sauce.
- For best results, refrigerate at least one hour and up to 24 hours before serving.