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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