Skinny Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing — EASY, ready in 30 minutes, feeds a crowd, and is on the SKINNY side!! Juicy chicken, fresh veggies, and the pasta are tossed in a light and tangy homemade Italian lemon vinaigrette!!
Easy Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing
Pasta isn’t inherently the skinniest of foods. Just putting that out there so I don’t have to field a thousand emails telling me this. But if you’re going to partake in pasta, it feels better when there’s an abundance of fresh vegetables along with lean protein.
And there’s the notable absence of cheese or a creamy sauce or dressing. And in the place of those ingredients, there’s a light but peppy, homemade Italian vinaigrette that lightly coats and flavors everything.
And that’s exactly what this skinnier pasta salad has going for it. Veggies, lean protein, no cheese or heavy sauces.
It’s a spinoff of this Italian Chicken Pasta Salad that has been a reader favorite over the years. And summer is the season for pasta salads and the time is ripe for this one. There’s tender chicken, fresh broccoli, orange bell peppers, juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, green onions, mint, and al dente pasta.
This salad makes a ton and can feed a crowd. I like to think of the four P’s: potlucks, picnics, parties, and planned leftovers.
What’s in Italian Pasta Salad?
To make this healthier pasta salad with Italian dressing, you’ll need:
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice and zest
- Apple cider vinegar
- Italian seasoning
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Rotini pasta
- Chicken breasts
- Broccoli florets
- Orange bell pepper
- Cherry tomatoes
- Green onions
- Fresh herbs
How to Make Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing
Cook the pasta according to package instructions in salted water. While it’s cooking, add the diced chicken to an oiled skillet and cook until done.
The vinaigrette is made with lemon juice, lemon zest, apple cider vinegar, Italian seasoning, and a bit of olive oil. Add it to the pan you’re cooking the chicken in and let it simmer for just a minute so that the flavors can really marry together. Heat has a way of helping flavors develop in a way that just mixing them together in a bowl does not.
Transfer the chicken, sauce, and cooked pasta to a large bowl and gently stir in the remaining ingredients.
What’s the Best Pasta for Pasta Salad?
I used rotini, but bowtie, ziti, or your favorite small pasta shapes may be substituted.
How Long Does Pasta Salad Last?
This easy Italian pasta salad will last up to 5 days in the fridge. Note that the veggies and pasta will soften over time.
Tips for Making Italian Chicken Pasta Salad
The leftovers keep beautifully and if you’re looking for easy lunches or no-brainer dinners for the week, it’s a perfect recipe. If you don’t need as much, you can always halve the recipe.
You can serve it warm and fresh right away, or chill it and serve it as a cold Italian pasta salad.
It’s also a very flexible recipe. Don’t have broccoli on hand but have sugar snap peas? Make the easy swap. Your kids aren’t a fan of bell peppers but will eat carrots? Go for it. Use what you have on hand and enjoy.
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- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 to 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 heaping tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional and to taste (does not make it spicy but adds lots of flavor)
- 12 ounces rotini pasta (bowtie or ziti may be substituted)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- about 1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into bite-sized pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced small
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved, (your favorite tomatoes may be substituted)
- 1 cup cucumber, diced small
- 2 or 3 green onions, sliced into thin rounds
- optional fresh herbs such as basil, mint, etc., finely chopped and to taste
- To a medium bowl or large measuring cup, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice (zest the lemon before juicing it), apple cider vinegar, honey, Italian seasoning, lemon lest, salt, pepper, optional cayenne, and whisk to combine; set sauce aside.
- Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water, drain, place in an extra-large bowl; set aside. While pasta is cooking, also cook the chicken.
- To a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, add the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, flipping intermittently so all sides cook evenly. Cooking time will vary based on thickness of chicken breasts and sizes of pieces.
- Add the sauce and allow it to bubble at a medium-fast boil for about 1 minute. Stir sauce and flip chicken intermittently throughout.
- Add the chicken and the sauce to the pasta bowl.
- Add the broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, optional fresh herbs (I had mint on hand and added about 3 tablespoons), and toss very well to combine.
- Taste and check for seasoning balance, making any necessary adjustments (more Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, extra olive oil, extra cayenne, splash of lemon juice, etc.) before serving.
- Salad may be served immediately, or cover and refrigerate until chilled.
- Salad will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 239Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 50mgSodium: 691mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 3gSugar: 10gProtein: 22g
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