Chicken Pasta Salad for a Crowd

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This is a great meal to make if you’re serving a crowd or if you’re taking a meal to another family. I have served it for birthday dinners when our extended families gather and just recently I made it when I was asked to take a meal to two families who had just had babies. A meal for 12 adults and a handful of kids? A meal for three families that can be transported in disposable containers? This recipe is the ticket. It is easily scaled to whatever quantity you need.

Of course, I don’t have precise measurements, but you want your ratios to suit your tastes anyway, right?

The great thing about this meal is that it can be put together in batches. Some boiling in the morning, some chopping at noon, some assembly during quiet time — or make it all the day before. Or, better still, make it the day before in batches.

 

Poach several chicken breasts & boil some penne or rotini pasta until just al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta. Drain & chop the chicken.

While those boil away, dice some jack or pepperjack cheese. I used an amount about equal in volume to the chicken.

Vegetable chopping: open one or two cans of black olives and halve the olives; halve grape or cherry tomatoes (about equal to either the cheese or the olives); dice a red or yellow or orange bell pepper or two; dice a zucchini or two or a zucchini and a summer squash.

Toss all your chopped foods into a gigantic mixing bowl or two, and add italian dressing. Last time I cheated and used a Kraft bottle, but Italian dressing is fairly simple to make.

It’s good if it sits for a couple hours in the fridge before serving. If you let it sit overnight it might need a touch more dressing when you serve it (the noodles will absorb the liquid, which is why you want to be careful to not overcook them). It seems to hold well for about two days, but after that the noodles are less than appealing.

 

Of course, another option — either a no-carb or a gluten-free version, however you want to look at it — is to simply leave out the noodles, maybe adding another zucchini and some more tomatoes. I made a bowl for myself without the pasta, and it was delicious. I made another such salad the next week, and it held strong in the fridge for three days. It might have lasted longer, but the children polished it off for me on the third day. Even they loved it without the pasta.

To take it to other families, I packaged it in a gallon ziplock and added bread and cookies and cut up watermelon.

I think this salad will become a summer staple around here.

 

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