Pasta salad can be a quick light lunch or, as in this case, a substantial dinner. This easy dish is not mayonnaise-based and can be tweaked to fit your tastes, diet, and budget.
Most of the flavor for this pasta salad comes from the chicken, so take your time with it. Cut 1.5 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes. Season with poultry seasoning, seasoned salt, or your favorite flavors. Brown in olive oil or flavored oil; add fresh minced garlic for a bit of zest. When cooked thoroughly, set aside.
While you're working on the chicken, start the water for your pasta. When it boils, cook 8 oz. of pasta according to the package directions. Experiment with different shapes and sizes; mini bowties work well.
While the chicken is cooking and the water is boiling, rinse and trim one bunch of asparagus and cut it into one-inch pieces. After the pasta is cooked, skim it from the pot into a colander -- do not pour the water out of the pot. Bring the water back to a boil, drop in the asparagus, and cook for five to seven minutes or until the desired tenderness. When done, pour into a colander and immediately douse with cold water to stop the cooking process; let drain.
Dice three medium-sized tomatoes, adjusting the quantity depending on the type and your preference; try four Roma or one Beefsteak. Add the tomatoes and the drained pasta to a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste; try spray butter for a low-calorie, rich accent.
Add the chicken and asparagus to the bowl and mix well. Serve as-is, or if you prefer a cold salad chill for a few hours. You can easily adjust the amount of chicken and/or pasta to make more or less salad, as desired. This dish often tastes better the next day, so don't be afraid of making more than you'll eat at one meal.
Pasta salad is a versatile dish by nature. This recipe makes a filling dinner, and the leftovers are great for lunch the next day. Use non-stick spray instead of the oil and trim the fat from the chicken to lower your calorie and fat count; spray butter contains less than one calorie per spray so you can get the flavor without the guilt.
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