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Chicken Pesto Salad

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Ingredients

1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 (9 ounce) containers refrigerated prepared pesto
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 (16 ounce) package frozen peas
1 (16 ounce) package gemelli pasta
2 cups grape tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 rotisserie chickens
1 (16 ounce) package Monterey Jack cheese, cubed

Chicken Pesto Salad

  • Serves 8
  • Easy

About This Recipe

Chicken Pesto Salad is one of my summer staple recipes. This wonderful main dish salad bursting with color and texture and flavors. It’s best if you can use tomatoes right off the vine, and the freshest bell peppers and your own homemade pesto.

But it’s also fabulous with store bought tomatoes and peppers and purchased pesto.

When I make this salad, we eat it for days until it’s gone. It’s great for lunch, dinner, and even breakfast! It’s so nice to have a one dish meal on hand that you can just pull out of the fridge and dish up. For me, this is much better than standing in 90° heat over a 500°F grill. Blech.

You can substitute your own favorite ingredients for some of the choices in this salad. Use a different cheese, add some chopped zucchini or yellow summer squash, or add some steamed green beans or corn. Just make sure you write down your changes so you can reproduce your wonderful creation next time.

Why this recipe works:

  • Pesto as a salad dressing is really good: fresh and flavorful. But without the addition of mayonnaise it tends to clump and have a really strong flavor. The fat in mayonnaise modifies the strength of the basil, garlic, and cheese, muffling it a bit. And the fat also makes the mouthfeel of the pesto better.
  • The fresh vegetables add crunch and texture and color to the salad, complementing the tender pasta and chicken. I will sometimes omit the cherry tomatoes if they aren’t really fresh and sweet.
  • All pasta salads, and all perishable foods, should be discarded after four days, even if they have been properly refrigerated.

Steps

1
Done

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2
Done

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, pesto, lemon juice, milk, and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl and mix with a wire whisk.

3
Done

Put the frozen peas in a colander in the sink. Then cook the pasta according to the package directions.

4
Done

When the pasta is cooked al dente, pour the pasta and water over the peas in the colander to thaw them. You don't want to cook the peas; they should just be thawed so they stay nice and firm.

5
Done

Add the drained pasta and peas to the bowl with the pesto dressing, along with the tomatoes and bell peppers. Stir gently to combine.

6
Done

Remove the meat from the chickens and cube. Freeze the carcasses to make stock.

7
Done

Add the cubed chicken and the cheese to the salad and mix gently. Then cover and chill for a few hours before serving.

lindaBest

lindaBest

Linda is a home economist who has authored 46 books (45 cookbooks and Medical Ethics for Dummies) since 2005. She has worked for Pillsbury since 1988, on the Bake-Off and other projects. Linda has been a web presence since 2002, developing recipes and teaching people how to cook.

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