Here’s a great recipe I came up with the other day. Now I’m typically not a massive pesto lover, but I’ve really been craving pasta salad lately and thought this could be a great idea. Turns out I was on to something.. The pesto serves as a great base to compliment the canvas of pasta and nuttiness of the cheese. On top of everything else, the candied pecans will give your pasta an awesome extra crunch and flavor.
Mediterranean Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad with Candied Pecans
An herby, nutty pasta salad--great to make ahead of time for lunches or weeknight dinners.
In a large pot, heat water over medium-high heat until boiled. Add 1-2 tablespoons of salt to pot. Cook pasta for 7-10 minutes until al dente.
While pot is heating, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Season chicken breast with olive oil, italian seasoning, Montreal steak seasoning, and salt & pepper to taste. Bake chicken breast for 12-15 minutes until cooked.
While pasta & chicken cooks, prepare all vegetables. Dice tomatoes and red onion while mincing garlic and shallots. Chiffonade raw spinach leaves. Chop pecans.
On a separate burner over medium heat, add pecans and granulated sugar, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Cook until a majority of the sugar has caramelized, leaving some of the granulated sugar for texture and crunch. Pour candied pecans over parchment paper to cool.
Remove and drain pasta. Add to large pot and toss with remaining olive oil to coat. Remove chicken breast, let cool for 5 minutes, and dice into small pieces.
In the same large pot, add tomatoes, red onion, garlic, shallots, spinach, feta, parmesan cheese, chicken, pesto sauce, and lemon juice. Toss to coat. Dish pasta into individual bowls. Sprinkle liberally with candied pecans and serve immediately.
- Feel free to substitute with other types of pasta such as rotini or penne. You can also try other types of cheese as well.
- This recipe works very well with leftover chicken. Take the liberty to cut out step two by utilizing pre-cooked and refrigerated chicken breast. When I make this recipe, I typically use some leftover chicken I made from meal prepping before the week starts.
- If you are going to refrigerate the meal before serving, keep the candied pecans off to the side in a sealed container. It is best to avoid topping with candied pecans until ready to serve as the oil and lemon juice will absorb a large amount of the sugar coating your pecans and taking off some of that extra crunch.