Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken

It's definitely summer here in Phoenix, with temperatures reaching up to 115 this past week. Ugh. I keep telling myself that I don't live here for the summer, just a few more months and it will be nice again. Meanwhile I'm trying to stay in the a/c as often as much as I can since even our swimming pool isn't refreshing when it's this hot. I'm trying to find light dinners that don't require a lot of heating up my kitchen...things that I can make early in the day, crockpot recipes, or grilled recipes are high on my list right now.

I recently came across a magazine from America's Test Kitchen (you know, the people that publish my beloved Cook's Illustrated magazine?) called "30-Minute Suppers." The salad pictured on the front was enough to get me to buy it, then when I flipped through it more in-depth I was so happy with my purchase. I'd say I want to make 90% of the recipes in the magazine. And since it's a summer edition a lot of the recipes meet my summer cooking criteria mentioned above.

This is one that jumped out at me right away. After reading through the recipe I figured it was something that could be served hot, room temperature, or cold. Fantastic!! And it has flavors that my whole family will eat which is another plus because I hate dinnertime struggles!

Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken
From America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers Summer 2010 Special Issue

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp juice from 1 lemon
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3/4 pound)
1 pound fusilli
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3 ounces (about 4 1/2 cups) baby arugula

Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Combine pine nuts, cheese, garlic, basil, and lemon juice in food processor and process until smooth, about 10 seconds. With processor running, slowly pour in 2/3 cup olive oil and process until smooth.

Brush chicken with reamining oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over hot fire until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and tent with foil. Wehn cool enough to handle, shred chicken.

Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon salt and fusilli to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, drain fusilli, and rinse fusilli with cold water. Transfer cooked fusilli to large bowl.

Toss pesto, chicken, tomatoes, and arugula with fusilli, adding reserved cooking water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.


This was so easy to throw together!! I didn't make my own pesto because I had some jarred in the fridge, and I used spinach instead of arugula. I had meant to grill my chicken earlier in the day but got caught up in other things. This is definitely something that could be thrown together early in the day so dinner was ready to go whenever.

By the way, don't forget to keep a bit of the cooking water out to add in to the salad. I remembered once it was too late (i.e. I had poured the pasta out into a colander already), but I think it was fine without it. Next time I'll be sure to keep some of it to see how it compares.

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