BBQ chicken pasta salad is a crowd pleasing favorite for a summer picnic. Made with mozzarella cheese, olives, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, and artichoke hearts it’s a hearty pasta dinner.
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This is the absolute best chicken pasta salad I’ve ever had. My mom has been making this for as long as I can remember.
Growing up, this was a summer staple. Often my mom would make this for parties but if she did she had to make at least a triple batch! Even now as some of my siblings are vegetarian we still make it and just divide up the salad, half with the BBQ chicken and half without.
Pasta salads are a great option for multi-diet families like mine. It is easy to add meat to pesto tortellini pasta salad for those who would like it or leave it out for those who wouldn’t.
What pasta can I use for this?
I prefer to use one of the longer shaped pastas like rotini or the one shown here, gemelli (pronounced jah-mell-ee). A smaller pasta like elbow macaroni can get lost amidst all the other ingredients and I find are harder to pick up with chunky ingredients.
Have leftover BBQ chicken?
Using BBQ chicken makes this a hearty and full meal. Make the BBQ chicken for dinner the night before, making some extra to throw in this pasta salad.
Or you can do what I’ve done in a pinch which is to use a rotisserie chicken cut up into pieces and toss the pieces in the BBQ sauce.
Can you make pasta salad ahead of time?
Yes! The homemade dressing is wonderful and is even better when the salad has been allowed to sit. If we are having this for a party I’ll make it up in the morning and refrigerate it as long as possible. This allows the cheese and pasta to soak up the dressing a little bit.
How do you blanch broccoli?
To blanch broccoli, you cook the broccoli in hot water for about 60 – 90 seconds. I like to boil the water for pasta and either add the broccoli while the pasta is cooking or right before adding the pasta.
Blanching the broccoli isn’t an absolute must, but it’s so easy to do and it really brightens up the broccoli. That way the broccoli is that lovely rich green rather than a kind of grey-green that it can sometimes look especially when paired with all of the other ingredients in the chicken pasta salad.
What to serve with pasta salad
Here are some of my favorite summer side dishes:
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For the pasta salad:
- 1 lb pasta like rotini
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes , whole
- 3.8 oz black olives can, sliced
- 1/2 red pepper , cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 green pepper , cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 cups broccoli florets , cut into bite size pieces
- 8 oz mozzarella cheese , cubed into approx. 1/2 inch squares
- 3 chicken breasts , cut into bite size pieces
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
- 12.2 oz artichoke hearts jar, halved
- 1 cup celery , coarsely chopped
- Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking blanch broccoli florets in the pasta water for about 60-90 seconds. Remove broccoli and allow to cool. When pasta is done remove from the water and allow to cool.
- Add salad ingredients into a large bowl.
- Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Pour over pasta salad and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.