Easy Italian Chicken Pasta Salad — EASY, ready in 30 minutes, perfect for a hassle-free family meal, and makes a big batch so you can have planned leftovers!! A super FLEXIBLE recipe based on what vegetables you have on hand!!
The Best Italian Pasta Salad
If you’re wondering what to make for your next picnic, potluck, summer barbecue, or for something you can make that the whole family will love (and that you’ll likely have plenty of leftovers for a few lunches for the week), look no further than this easy pasta salad recipe.
There’s tender chicken, al dente pasta, crisp-tender vegetables, all perfumed with Italian seasoning and Italian dressing for the perfect punch of flavor.
You can serve it warm, at room temp, or chilled, and since there’s no mayo it’s great for those outdoor events!
What’s in Italian Chicken Pasta Salad?
To make this easy pasta salad that’s ready in 30 minutes, you’ll need:
- Rotini pasta
- Olive oil
- White or yellow onion
- Boneless skinless chicken breast
- Italian seasoning
- Red and yellow bell peppers
- Italian salad dressing
- Italian flat-leaf parsley
- Lemon juice
How to Make Italian Chicken Pasta Salad
This is an incredibly easy pasta salad with Italian dressing and chicken. Follow these straightforward instructions:
- Cook the pasta until al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, get started sautéing the onion and chicken in olive oil. Cook the chicken in a skillet, seasoning simply with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
- Add the garlic and stir to incorporate it. Make sure to flip and stir the chicken and onions throughout the cooking process so they cook evenly.
- Combine the cooked pasta with the cooked chicken and onions in a very large mixing bowl before adding the carrots, zucchini, and bell peppers and stir to combine.
- Add the Italian salad dressing and the parsley to the bowl and stir well to combine everything.
Recipe Variations to Try
While I used the ingredients outlined above, feel free to mix-and-match based on what you have on hand and what you prefer. This is a very flexible recipe.
Some ideas and suggestions you can use to change up this pasta salad recipe with Italian dressing include:
- Different pasta shapes (more on that in the next section below)
- Tomatoes of any kind (Roma, heirloom, grape, cherry)
- Lettuces or greens
- Yellow squash
- Cucumbers (English or regular)
- Fresh herbs (omit the parsley and add basil or oregano)
- Cheese (Parmesan, a shredded cheese medley, feta, goat, or your favorite)
What’s the Best Pasta for Pasta Salad?
I used rotini because that’s what I had on hand but any small-shaped pasta will work great including bow tie, ziti, penne, small elbow macaroni, or similar. I’d steer clear of spaghetti and long noodle-type pastas for this pasta salad.
How to Store Italian Chicken Pasta Salad
This Italian chicken pasta salad keeps in the fridge for up to five days if stored in an air-tight container or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Because it makes a big batch, it’s nice to be able to freeze the leftovers for rainy days in the future when you may need a grab-and-go lunch or dinner. The texture of the vegetables will be a bit softer after being frozen and then thawed, but they’re perfectly tasty.
Tips for Making Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing
For me, the carryover heat from the warm pasta and chicken is sufficient to lightly soften the vegetables. I prefer my vegetables to have some crunch and this is how to preserve it.
Note that the vegetables will soften even more as time passes if this sits as leftovers in your fridge but if you absolutely want them more cooked, add all of them to the skillet when the chicken is about 50% cooked through.
Because this is such a big batch of food with one pound of pasta and two pounds of chicken, plus the vegetables, my advice is to not be shy about adding salt and pepper so that this isn’t bland. I added much more than the 1 teaspoon called for with both salt and pepper, but as always, I recommend you season to your tastes.
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- 1 pound rotini pasta, cooked according to package directions (another small-shaped pasta such as ziti, penne, small elbow, etc. may be substituted)
- 4 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
- 1 small white or yellow onion, diced small
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, diced into bite-sized pieces
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, or to taste
- 1+ teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
- 1+ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
- 1 medium zucchini, diced into small half moon-shaped pieces
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced into small half moon-shaped pieces
- 1 medium/large red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
- 1 medium/large yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced small
- 3/4 cup Italian salad dressing, or to taste
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and place in a very large mixing bowl, and set aside. While pasta is cooking, being cooking the onion and chicken.
- To a large skillet, add the olive oil, onion, and cook over medium-high heat for about 4 to 5 minutes or until onion begins to slightly soften; stir frequently.
- Add the chicken and season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste, and cook over medium-high heat for about 7 minutes, flipping and stirring frequently so chicken and onions cook evenly. At any time, if the mixture looks like it needs more olive oil, add it.
- When chicken has cooked through, add the garlic, and cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant, stir nearly consistently.
- Add the cooked chicken and onion mixture, including all cooking juices, to the bowl with cooked pasta.
- Add the zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, and stir to combine. The carryover heat from the chicken and pasta will lightly soften the vegetables.
- Add the Italian dressing, parsley, lemon juice, and stir to combine. Taste and check for seasoning balance, making any necessary adjustments (more Italian seasoning, more salt or pepper which is very likely since this is a very large quantity of food and I recommend not being shy with the salt and pepper, a pinch of cayenne for heat, extra splash of lemon juice, olive oil, etc.) before serving.
Tip - While the pasta is simmering, the onions and chicken are sauteeing, make sure you are working ahead chopping the remaining vegetables that need to be chopped.
Storage: Recipe can be served warm, at room temp, or chilled. It will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 330Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 460mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 32g
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