Balsamic Chicken Pasta Recipe

Way back in the day, pasta was a pretty straightforward dish. Spaghetti came with red sauce and sometimes meatballs, and lasagna was for when you wanted to get fancy. For those with less adventurous palates, there was always good old mac and cheese. Then along came the 80s, and suddenly pasta salad was all the rage. Pasta salads had existed prior to this time, but were thought of as more of a side dish, the kind of thing you ate at picnics off paper plates. Taste even speaks of one Depression-era recipe where pasta was used to make "mock potato salad." A 1978 recipe for pasta salad with chicken published in The New York Times was so popular, however, that it  kicked off a two-decade food fad where pasta salads featured as a main course at every warm-weather get together rather than being relegated to a sideline role.

Recipe developer and registered dietitian Kristen Carli has come up with a new millennium pasta salad that also features chicken, one that is versatile enough to be served hot as well as cold. She says what she likes best about this salad is that "I can make a big batch for dinner and then store leftovers in the fridge to serve cold pasta salad for lunches the next day." As for the flavor, Carli tells us, "I love the combination of olives and basil — herby and briny!"

Gather the ingredients

Carli makes this pasta dish with bow tie pasta, chicken tenders, pitted black olives, and cherry tomatoes. The pasta is seasoned with dried basil, salt, and pepper, and is tossed with a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. While extra-virgin olive oil is usually preferred for salads, if you prefer the milder taste of pure olive oil, you can use that, instead. For the oil used to cook the chicken, you can actually substitute any type of cooking oil you wish. Carli also notes that when it comes to the tomatoes, "grape tomatoes [as well as] cherry tomatoes will work here." 

Cook the pasta

The first, and most time-consuming, step in this recipe involves simply boiling a large pot of water to cook the pasta. Like the old proverb says, a watched pot never boils, but even an unwatched one can take some time to heat up. Once the water is (finally!) boiling, pour in the pasta and cook it for exactly as long as the package says to do so. When it reaches the al dente stage, drain the water.

If you're wondering why the farfalle, Carli tells us "I prefer the bow tie pasta to catch the pieces of basil in the ridges." She does say, however, that "any other shape of pasta [will] work," but you'll probably want to stick to a short, chunky pasta, since a spaghetti salad would be pretty sloppy.

Prep the veggies and cook the chicken

While the pasta cools, slice the olives in half, and do the same thing for the tomatoes. (You could actually do this while waiting for the water to boil, as well.)

Once the veggies are prepped, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet with the stove burner set to medium. Cook the chicken in the hot oil for about 5 minutes per side. Once the chicken is cooked, it should be golden in color, should look and feel cooked, and should register 165 F on a meat thermometer. No meat thermometer? Slice into a piece. If you see any pink, cook it some more. No pink? Good to go.

Toss the ingredients with a vinegar and oil dressing

Once the chicken is cooked, let it sit and cool for a minute or two while you mix the pasta with the olives, tomatoes, and basil. Then chop the chicken into bite-sized chunks once it's cool enough to handle, and mix the chicken chunks in with the pasta and veggies. Toss the pasta salad with the remaining olive oil as well as the vinegar, then sprinkle it with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper before tossing once more to combine.

This pasta salad is great for either a midday or a nighttime meal. Carli tells us, "I like serving this with fresh fruit when [I'm] eating [it] for lunch, but with a big green salad when eating [it] for dinner. "

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Recipe
5 from 38 ratings
Looking for a quick and easy dish to bring to your next potluck? Or a simple dinner that's ready in 30 minutes? This balsamic chicken pasta dish is perfect.
Prep Time
Cook Time
bowl of chicken bowtie pasta
Total time: 30 minutes
  • 1 pound bow tie pasta
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pitted black olives, halved
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup lightly dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.
  3. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  5. Add the chicken tenders to the skillet and cook them for 5 minutes on each side, until the chicken is golden and the internal temperature registers at least 165 F.
  6. Mix the drained pasta, olives, tomatoes, and basil in a salad bowl.
  7. Slice the cooked chicken tenders into bite-size chunks and add them to pasta.
  8. Dress pasta with the remaining oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper, tossing to combine.
  9. Serve warm or cold.
Calories per Serving 676
Total Fat 32.0 g
Saturated Fat 5.3 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 31.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 75.4 g
Dietary Fiber 6.6 g
Total Sugars 4.1 g
Sodium 870.9 mg
Protein 22.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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