ITALIAN CHICKEN PASTA SALAD (GLUTEN FREE)
Now that the weather is finally warming up here in Utah, I am craving all the fresh vegetables and pasta salads! This Italian Chicken Pasta Salad is gluten free, macro-balanced, and easily made dairy free or vegan. Did I mention it's so flavorful? It's got homemade Italian dressing, garlic chicken, crumbled feta, olives, spinach, tomatoes, and fresh dill. You can make it dairy free by omitting the feta, and vegan by replacing the chicken with chickpeas (or simply use protein pasta)!
Did you know? Olive oil has been studied as a potential health factor for reducing all-cause mortality and the risk of chronic diseases. (source) It's a key element of the Mediterranean Diet, which has been touted as "the world's healthiest diet" by many health experts.
Choosing the best chicken
I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe, but you could also use chicken tenderloins (or chickpeas for vegan).
When it comes to chicken, the main thing I look for is "no antibiotics ever." Antibiotics are routinely used to prevent disease, but are unnecessary if the chickens are raised in clean, healthy conditions. I can say this because we raised chickens growing up! There is also evidence that antibiotic residues in food pose various health risks to humans, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The second thing I look for is "free range" or "pasture raised," which indicates that the chickens had access to the outdoors. "Cage free" just means the chickens weren't kept in tiny cages - it does not mean they had access to fresh air and sunshine. "Certified Humane” or “Animal Welfare Approved" guarantees that the chickens had not only outdoor access, but the ability to forage outside and enjoy socializing and sunshine. I'm not vegan but still think it's important to treat animals humanely and "vote with our dollars."
The best gluten free pasta
Since my husband is gluten intolerant, we've tried our fair share of gluten free pastas! Some are terrible, but some are awesome. My favorite brands are Barilla gluten-free, Jovial gluten-free, and Ancient Harvest gluten-free. Most of these I've been able to find at Walmart and Kroger stores.
Of course, you can use wheat pasta if tolerated, or chickpea or lentil pasta for an extra boost of plant-based protein. Feel free to try other shapes like fusilli, bow tie, or rotini too!
Best vegetables for pasta salad
For this recipe, I used tomatoes, spinach, and red onion; but you could also use artichoke hearts, asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, or zucchini. Any soft, quick-cooking vegetables work great for pasta salad!
Harder vegetables like carrots or radish can also work if sliced very thin.
Homemade Italian dressing
For the homemade Italian dressing, you're going to need extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, fresh garlic and dill, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. You could also use one-third as much granulated garlic or dried dill, but it won't be as flavorful!
Here's the printable recipe for this Italian Chicken Pasta Salad. I hope you'll rate and comment below if you try it :)
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Italian Chicken Pasta Salad (Gluten Free)
Now that the weather isfinally warming up here in Utah, I am craving all the fresh vegetables and pasta salads! This Italian Chicken Pasta Salad is gluten free, macro-balanced, and easily made dairy free or vegan. Did I mention it's so flavorful? It's got homemade Italian dressing, garlic chicken, crumbled feta, olives, spinach, tomatoes, and fresh dill. You can make it dairy free by omitting the feta, and vegan by replacing the chicken with chickpeas (or simply use protein pasta)!
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (or avocado oil)
24 oz. raw boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness* (or chickpeas)
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
12 oz. gluten free penne pasta*
2 cups halved grape tomatoes*
3 cups packed spinach*
1/4 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese (optional)
1/4 red thinly sliced onion*
- 1/4 cup sliced black olives
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill*
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. dijon mustard
2 tsp. (2 cloves) minced garlic*
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt (less if preferred)
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
*See blog post above for substitutions and notes.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Pound chicken breasts to an even thickness using a meat mallet or your fist, then season with garlic, pepper, and salt on both sides.
Cook in skillet for 5-6 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through (no pink). Set aside on a plate.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions for al dente, usually about 7-10 minutes in boiling water. Once done, rinse with cold water, cover, and set aside.
Wash and slice vegetables, drain olives, and wash and mince garlic and dill. Add to pasta.
Combine ingredients for dressing in a jar or sealable container, shake to combine ingredients.
Add dressing to pasta and vegetables, then toss to combine.
Chill in the fridge for 30-60 minutes then serve fresh! Leftovers will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for up to four days. Freezing not recommended.
Calories (made into 8 servings): 356kcal, Fat: 12g, Sat fat: 2.1g, Carbs: 37g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 24g, Sodium: 421mg
Calories (made into 6 servings): 475kcal, Fat: 16g, Sat fat: 2.7g, Carbs: 49g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 2g, Protein: 32g, Sodium: 561mg
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