Pasta salads are an ideal dish no matter the weather. Light and refreshing, as well as robust enough to be transported, pasta salads can make for a great picnic or packed lunch option, and they are always well received at a barbecue or at a potluck dinner. Not only are they delicious when out and about, but they also make for a filling and healthy lunch option that can be shared around the kitchen table.
This recipe for mandarin chicken pasta salad, developed by Tasting Table recipe developer Jennine Rye, goes beyond the usual mayonnaise or vinaigrette bases that are commonly associated with pasta salads, instead making use of Asian-inspired flavors, which are both bold and well-balanced. The addition of orange flavors brings a citrusy sweetness, which pairs really well with the gentle, savory meatiness of the chicken. The saltiness of the soy sauce and nuttiness of sesame oil are balanced out by the freshness of creamy avocado, the crisp lettuce, sharp scallions, and the herby bright cilantro. All the ingredients combine to create a super tasty and very moreish pasta salad that is also light and very nutritious. Read on to find out how you can make this mandarin chicken pasta salad at home.
Gather The Ingredients For This Mandarin Chicken Pasta Salad Recipe
To begin this mandarin chicken pasta salad recipe, first, you will need to gather the ingredients. You will want two large chicken breasts, which will be cooked with cooking oil and garlic powder. For the pasta, we recommend fusilli, and you can easily use a wheat-free version to make this dish gluten-free. To make the pasta sauce, you will want soy sauce (again -- find a gluten-free version if you need), orange juice, toasted sesame oil, either maple syrup or honey (whichever you have to hand), and ginger paste. Finally, you will need mandarin oranges, scallions, cilantro, a red bell pepper, some chopped gem lettuce, an avocado, and some sesame seeds.
Bake The Chicken
The first step to making this mandarin chicken pasta dish is to cook the chicken breasts. To do this, place them in a baking dish and then coat them with oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Bake them at 400 F for 20 minutes, until they are just cooked and still super succulent. Cooking at higher temperatures keeps the chicken nice and juicy -- particularly important for breast meat which contains less fat and connective tissues. Once cooked, chop or shred the breast into bite-sized slices or chunks.
Cook The Pasta
When cooking pasta, different shapes and types of pasta require different amounts of time, so it's always best to follow the instructions on the packet. For this recipe, we recommend using fusilli. It is the perfect shape for pasta salad as it is more robust than other shapes, is easy to eat with a fork, and it holds a lot of sauce.
In order to stop the cooking process when the pasta is ready, cool it under a cold tap for a few minutes. This will stop it from overcooking and going mushy, helping it to keep its form in the salad.
Make The Sauce
With the pasta and chicken ready, it's time to make the sauce. To do this, simply mix together the toasted sesame oil, the soy sauce, the maple syrup, the ginger paste, and the orange juice.
If you've used canned mandarin oranges, you can use the juice from those, or you could use some freshly squeezed orange juice for a slightly less sweet taste. Remember that soy usually contains gluten, so if you need a gluten-free dish, you will want to swap in tamari sauce or a gluten-free version of soy sauce.
Mix The Salad
When prepping the ingredients to add to a salad, always try to make sure they are a similar size, which makes for a good balance of flavors in every mouthful as well as making the salad easier to eat. For this recipe, that means that you should ensure everything is a similar size to the fusilli pasta. To finish off this recipe, add all of the chopped salad ingredients to a large bowl along with the pasta and the chicken, drizzle over the salad sauce, and then carefully stir everything until it is well-mixed and thoroughly coated in the sauce.
Because this salad contains lettuce and avocado, it is best made and served fresh, although in the unlikely event that there are leftovers, they will last in the fridge for a day or two.
Mandarin Chicken Pasta Salad Recipe
Prep Time: 20mCook Time: 30mYield: 4 ServingsIngredients
2 large chicken breasts
1 tablespoon cooking oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ pound fusilli pasta
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon ginger paste
¼ cup orange juice
1 can mandarin segments, drained
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup chopped gem lettuce
1 avocado, finely chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, plus extra for serving
¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prepare the chicken breasts by placing them into an ovenproof dish, coating them with the cooking oil and then sprinkling on the garlic powder and salt and pepper, to taste.
Roast the chicken breasts for 20 to 25 minutes until they are just cooked through. Remove them from the oven and set to one side to cool.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the fusilli pasta and cook it according to the packet instructions, then drain and allow to cool.
Mix together the toasted sesame oil, the soy sauce, the maple syrup, the ginger paste, and the orange juice to form the pasta salad sauce.
Slice or shred the chicken, and then place it into a large mixing bowl along with the pasta, mandarin segments, red pepper, lettuce, avocado, scallions, sesame seeds, and cilantro. Add the mixed pasta salad sauce and carefully toss everything together to coat, before serving.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.