As we are finally starting to see signs of spring around here, I decided it was time to bring back one of my best-loved spring, summer, and, let’s face it, fall dishes: my favorite pasta salad. I stumbled on this recipe a few years ago when I was reading outdated magazines in a doctor’s office. There I was flipping pages looking for something interesting to read (and wishing I had remembered my book), when I stumbled upon a beautiful bowl of pasta. Reading on (and per Rachel Ray’s signature style), the recipe was quick, easy, healthy and very much open to interpretation–my kind of meal.
Here’s how I changed things up: I added the chicken to stretch it a bit further and the corn and avocado simply because I’m all for adding additional veggies (and flavors!) I also edited the amount of oil and lemon, so feel free to change those to your liking as well. Occasionally, I’ve added a diced red pepper, but my favorite version of the salad is below. I like to serve it with a big fruit salad (or simply a huge watermelon, if it is summer).
My Favorite Pasta Salad
Adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine, August 2010
1 lb penne or rotini*
8 slices of turkey bacon
1/2 lb chicken breast(s)
2 cobbs of yellow or white corn
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 8-10 oz bag of organic baby spinach
4 lemons, zested and juiced
a handful of flaked almonds
2 avocados, peeled and roughly chopped
grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions.
While pasta cooks, pan fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan to paper towels to drain. Reserve fat.
Add chicken to pan and allow to cook in the reserved bacon fat. Cook the breast whole flipping once when halfway done cooking. Remove from pan when the center of your chicken breast reaches 165° (approximately 10 minutes) and allow to cool slightly.
While chicken is cooking, shuck the corn and cut the corn kernels off of the cobb into a large bowl. Add diced red onion, halved tomatoes, spinach, lemon zest and juice, and almonds to bowl.
Roughly chop bacon and add to bowl.
Using two forks, shred chicken and add to bowl.
When pasta is done cooking, drain and then add pasta to bowl with other salad ingredients. While tossing all of the ingredients together, add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. I find that you will need at least 1 teaspoon of both salt and pepper and a 1/4 cup of olive oil.
Add avocados and a handful of Parmesan cheese to bowl. Toss and serve.
*Note: I find that using traditional pasta over whole wheat tends to work better in pasta salads.