An easy, fresh and healthy pasta salad with whole wheat pasta shells, herb-seasoned chicken and a lemony Dijon mustard dressing.
Pasta salads — you can’t live without ’em.
They’re the essence of easy cooking.
Plus, everyone loves an easy pasta salad, and a really, really good one wins the Marta Stewart award at potlucks, summer picnics and quick meals.
Chicken pasta salad
This pasta salad recipe features chicken breasts seasoned with Mediterranean herbs de Provence, cannellini beans, handfuls of greens and a zingy lemon-Dijon dressing.
It might seem crazy to admit this along with a recipe for pasta salad, but they haven’t always been my favorite dish on the picnic table.
I think it must have to do with trying too many bland pasta salads with ice-cold, mushy pasta and gloppy, heavy dressings.
I worked around that predicament with this pasta salad recipe.
I combined herby, seasoned chicken and layered the flavors with a bright, balanced dressing — seasoned with more herbs de Provence, Dijon and lemon — that ties it all together.
This is a great dish to make-ahead, and perfect for those days when you want a quick, one-dish supper.
What’s herbs de Provence?
I prefer to use fresh herbs for most cooking, but there are some dried herbs that deserve a place on the spice shelf, and Herbs de Provence is one of them.
Herbs de Provence is an aromatic French-Mediterranean herb blend, usually a mixture of many herbs, but the most basic ones are:
Herbs de Provence is easily found in most supermarkets or online.
To find the best blends, look closely at the jars and check that you can see actual, greenish herb leaves (rather than gray dusty bits) and lots of purple lavender petals. This is my favorite brand.
Tips for pasta salad perfection:
- Serve slightly warm or at room temperature for best flavor.
- Drizzle a little more dressing over the pasta salad just before serving — the pasta will absorb the dressing as it sits.
- Whole wheat pasta has a wholesome nutty flavor and sturdy texture for pasta salad, but any bite-sized pasta cut will work.
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 small shallot, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
- 12 ounces whole wheat pasta shells or other bite-sized pasta shape
- 1 (14-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
- 3 cups baby arugula or other greens
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Make the dressing: Put 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small skillet. Stir in the garlic and shallot and place over medium heat just until the garlic begins to sizzle. Remove from the heat and transfer to a mini-food processor (or to a mixing bowl with a whisk). Add the remaining olive oil and the rest of the ingredients for the dressing and process until smooth and emulsified. Taste and season with more salt, pepper, vinegar as needed.
- Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and the herbs de Provence. Cook the chicken on a medium-hot grill or in a 425 degree oven until the chicken is cooked through — about 5 minutes per side on a grill and 25 minutes in the oven.
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.
- Add the beans, arugula and half the Dijon dressing to the pasta and gently toss. Slice the chicken and arrange on top of the salad. Drizzle with more dressing to taste and sprinkle with cheese.
The salad dressing and chicken can be made ahead of time, but I recommend cooking the pasta and then adding the dressing while it's still slightly warm for the best flavor.
I like to briefly cook the garlic and shallot to remove the raw bite in the dressing, but you can skip that step.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 711Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 83mgSodium: 1218mgCarbohydrates: 63gFiber: 10gSugar: 5gProtein: 43g