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Pesto Chicken Salad With Red Grapes

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“This is a recipe they demonstrated on our local afternoon news show and thought ohhh my goodness I simply have got to make that. This is a great dish for do ahead summer entertaining. Sweet and juicy grapes are the zesty extra that revive weary tastebuds on a hot summer day. The fragrant paste of basil, garlic, and pine nuts is classic and devine. Use it not only in this recipe but also as an appetizer stuff it into hollowed out cherry tomatoes. For a quick dip, stir 1/4 cup pesto into 1/2 cup plain yogurt,mayonnaise, or sour cream; sprinkle with parmesan cheese and season to taste.”

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Pasta and Chicken:
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat; add salt, then the penne. When the water returns to a boil, stir occasionally to separate the penne. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or according to package instructions, until the pasta is al dente. Drain well, rinse with cool water, and drain again.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, poach the chicken. Pour water into a medium saute pan, to a level about 1 1/2 inches deep (when it is added, the chicken should be covered by about 1/2 inch water). Stir in the salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the chicken; reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through.
  4. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the skillet. Cut it into 1-inch pieces and place on a plate to cool. Discard the poaching liquid.
  5. Basil Pesto:
  6. Process all the ingredients in a food processor (or blender) until the mixture is a coarse puree. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  7. The pesto will keep for up to 1 week in a covered container in the refrigerator; pour a thin film of olive oil on top of the pesto to prevent discoloration. For longer storage, spoon the mixture into a foil-lined custard cup, cover tightly with foil and freeze. Once frozen, remove the foil-wrapped packet and store in a freezer bag for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or remove from the foil and thaw quickly in the microwave.
  8. Creamy Pesto Dressing:
  9. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  10. In a medium bowl toss together the pasta, chicken, carrots and grapes. Add the dressing and toss again. Place lettuce on plate and scoop the chicken mixture on top, and garnish as you wish.
  11. The dressing will keep for up to 2 days in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator. (If it thickens after standing, thin with milk or water.) This salad can be made early the day it is to be served; refrigerate and serve later, either chilled or at room temperature.
  12. ***Variation***.
  13. Substitute other pasta shapes, such as rotini or rotelle.
  14. Rather than poaching the chicken breasts try grilling them.

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