My sister-in-law, Laureen, is a fabulous cook. Years ago, she gave me this recipe and it is my go-to recipe for whenever a hearty pasta salad is required. Birthday party, church potluck, baby shower, funeral, royal wedding brunch- this salad has been there. Everyone always loves it and you will know why when you try it. I do have one variation of it for when I am feeding younger children. My variation substitutes black olives, basil and fresh mozzarella for the kalamata olives, dill and feta. Also, in a desperate hurry I will use an excellent bottled vinagrette instead of making one.
Chicken Ziti Pasta Salad
- 1 pound ziti pasta (or penne may be substituted)
- 2 large chicken breasts (bone-in, skin-on)
- 1 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped in half
- 6-8 oz. feta cheese, chunkily chopped up (this is all me - Laureen doesn\'t put this in)
- 1/2 red onion, sliced and medium chopped
- 2-3 stalks celery, chunkily chopped
- 1-2 red bell peppers, chopped (I sometimes add a yellow or orange for fun)
- 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 2 T. lemon juice, fresh
- 3 T. white wine vinegar
- 2 T. mayonnaise (Best foods or Hellmans - yes, I am a total mayo snob here)
- 2 T. good quality dijon mustard
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- For the kid friendly variation:
- 10-12 oz. fresh mozzarella instead of feta
- 1/2 cup chopped basil instead of dil
- 1 1/4 cup halved black olives instead of kalamata
- Grill or bake the chicken breasts. To bake - rub a little olive oil on them , and salt and pepper them. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Trust me - skin on roasted breast meat is so much better than boiled skinless boneless chicken breasts! Cool and chop up into chunks and drizzle with lemon juice.
- Boil the pasta al dente per the instructions. Cool.
- Mix the vinaigrette. I make mine in a food processor by mixing together the vinegar, mayo and mustard & adding oil in a slow stream to emulsify it. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the olives, cheese, chicken and vegetables to the pasta and mix. Add the vinaigrette and mix again.
- Sprinkle the top with more dill.