Saturday, June 18, 2011

Caesar Chicken Pasta Salad

In my previous post, One Chicken - Three Meals, I talked about shredding chicken and putting it away for later.  Well, here's one of my favorite "later" meals which is a great pot-luck dish - or lunch or dinner, get the idea!

Here is what you'll need to gather:
  • 1 16-oz. box of pasta - I prefer the shaped pasta (i.e. bow tie) over a spaghetti style for this dish
  • 1 bottle of your favorite Caesar dressing (don't worry, you won't need the entire bottle!)
  • 1 portion (about a cup or so) of pre-cooked and shredded chicken
  • 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (or more if you really like it)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Fresh shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish
1- Cook pasta according to package directions. It should be cooked al-dente; if you over-cook it you will have mushy pasta.  (On a side note, I have found that a lot of times these days companies are producing 12-oz. boxes of pasta instead of 16.  If that is the case, adjust your other ingredients accordingly.)

2 - Drain pasta and run under cool water to stop the cooking process.  When my pasta is sitting in the colander, I like to stir it around a bit...this helps extract more water, and it keeps the pasta from sticking together.  Make sure you  get rid of as much water as possible - you don't want soupy pasta salad :)

3 - Place the pasta in whatever bowl you plan to serve it in.  (I truly believe in dirtying up as few dishes as possible!)  Just make sure the bowl is big enough so that you can stir it really really good without getting your stuff all over the counter...(come on, admit it, this has happened to you, too!!)

4 - Pour dressing over pasta and start stirring.  My rule of thumb is that I like all of the noodles to be well-dressed but not swimming in dressing because as the pasta sits, it will soak up the dressing.  You want it to still be creamy when you come back for seconds!

5 - Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the pasta and stir until well-incorporated.  (Nobody wants to bite into a big ball of powdered cheese - cough, cough!)

6 - Add chicken and stir.  Make sure the chicken is evenly distributed throughout so you get some in every bite!!  YUM.

7 - Now get out a fork and taste.  Parmesan cheese is very salty, so some folks may not want to add salt at this point.  Like Bobby Brown says, "it's my prerogative!"  I, however, will most definitely add salt and pepper at this point.  Keep tasting until it's how you like it.  (This would be my favorite step in the process!)

8 - Garnish with shaved Parmesan when you are ready to serve.

What I love about this pasta salad is that at this point you can add extras that really jazz this up.  It's all about what suits you and your family.  My peeps eat it just like this.  Unfortunately, they do not share my love of really jazzed up food, so I personalize my own plate rather than the entire dish.

  • Serve on a bed of romaine lettuce
  • Chop romaine lettuce and incorporate into the salad.
  • Kalamata olives - stirred into the pasta or garnish on top
  • Chopped tomatoes - stirred into the pasta or garnish on top
  • Anchovies (oh yes, my favorite way to freak people out - love them!)

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