Here’s a nice one for all you pasta salad lovers.
It’s super simple to make, some delicious pasta, shredded chicken, pineapple, a bit of red onion (of course!) and some tasty toasted pine nuts, all combined with a basil pesto, parmesan, Creme Fraiche dressing.
If you are not familiar with Creme Fraiche, the name is French, meaning ‘fresh cream’. It’s a deliciously tangy version of sour cream with a velvety texture. It can be used as a replacement for sour cream, ie; over a baked potato or as a garnish for soups.
It’s not as tangy as our sour cream here in New Zealand so I like adding it to breakfasts like pancakes or french toast with berries and desserts like roasted stone fruits or anything I’d usually add thickened cream too but I wanted it to be a little fancy, schmancy…..wink, wink!
50 g / 1 ¾ oz / 1/3 cup pine nuts
1 ½ tablespoons salt
1 x 375 g / 13 oz packet dried pasta (I used San Remo Vegeroni spirals)
1.4 kg / 3 lb / size 14 cooked chicken (2 ½ – 3 cups white meat when shredded)
1 small or ½ medium-sized red onion
1 x 425 g /15 oz tin pineapple pieces (will need 1 cup when drained)
35 g / 1 ¼ oz parmesan (½ cup when grated)
200 g / ¾ cup / 7 oz Creme Fraiche
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon basil pesto
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cracked, black pepper
- I often use basil pesto dips instead of pesto as they are cheaper. In saying that though, they are yummy but often not as strong as actual pesto so if you use dip it may pay to taste the salad and then add more if needed.
- You can use any pasta you like, I chose San Remo Vegeroni spirals because it’s colourful and looks so pretty!
- I buy a cooked rotisserie chicken for this but of course, you can cook one the day or night before which if there is a good special on frozen chicken, is more economical.
- Some branded tins of pineapple ‘pieces’ are more like ‘chunks’. I slice them in half for this salad as chunks are a little chunky!! 🙂
STEP BY STEP
LET’S DO IT!
Fill a large saucepan with 5 litres / 170 fl oz of cold water to cook the pasta. Place the lid on (to help it boil faster) and place it over a high heat.
- It may seem like a lot of water but it’s so that once the pasta begins to cook and expand, there will still be plenty of room for it to move around freely and not clump and stick together. You also want enough water to retain its heat once the pasta is added.
Whilst it’s coming to a boil, you can toast the pine nuts.
So, place a rack in the centre of the oven and turn it to 160°C/325°F fan bake/convection oven or 180°C/350 °F conventional oven, on bake.
Spread the nuts out on a baking tray and…..
…..when the oven is up to temp, toast them for 5 minutes.
Then remove them from the oven, toss them around well (because the outside ones will brown quicker) and then return them to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
Transfer half of them to a very large bowl, leaving half of them on a little plate, (for sprinkling on top later).
Place a colander (or sieve) ready in the sink (to strain the pasta later).
If the water is rapidly boiling, remove the lid, add the salt (stir it in) and…..
- If you want very salty water like the Italians do, add another tablespoon of salt!
…..then add the pasta.
If the water’s not boiling…..continue below…..or
do a chore whilst you’re waiting, have a coffee? Wine? Reality TV?
Stirring often, cook the pasta for 10 minutes or until it’s ‘al dente’ which means tender but firm to the tooth (has a slight bite to it).
- I followed the time on the pasta packet instructions and if you are using a different brand of pasta I suggest you do too as the time will vary.
Once the pasta is ‘al dente’ turn off the heat, strain it into the colander (or sieve) and leave it until it’s cool.
- Toss it around often or it will stick together as it cools down. If your colander is quite small, you can transfer it to a very large bowl to help it cool down faster.
Whilst the pasta is cooling, shred the chicken (triple checking it for bones) and add it to the large bowl with the pine nuts.
- I only use the white meat.
Also, peel and cut the onion in half and thinly slice it, also adding it to the large bowl.
- Onion cutting tip – Cut the onion in half (through the root end and stalk end) and then peel both halves but leave the root ends on. Place a half on your cutting board and hold the onion at the root end and start slicing from the stalk end. The root of the onion will hold all the layers together for you whilst you slice.
Strain the pineapple through a sieve (keeping a ¼ cup of the juice).
- If the pieces are more like chunks, slice them in half.
Add the pineapple and the pasta to the bowl with the pine nuts, the chicken and the red onion.
If you have a block of parmesan, grate the ½ cup you need and place it into a small bowl (leaving 2 tablespoons aside to sprinkle on top later).
Add to the bowl the Creme Fraiche, the 3 tablespoons of pesto, the salt and the black pepper.
Mix it all together…..
…..and add it to the bowl with the other ingredients along with the pineapple juice.
Use a huge spoon to fold it all together, making sure everything is coated in the dressing.
To finish, sprinkle over the parmesan you set aside, the other half of the pine nuts and…..
…..also drizzle over the extra teaspoon of basil pesto and garnish with a sprig of Italian parsley or pineapple sage (that’s what I used). 🙂
- If you are using basil pesto dip it’s a little thick for drizzling but you can mix a teaspoon of it with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and then drizzle it over.
Keepin’ it fresh – Keep well covered in the fridge for up to 2 days.
What type of pasta do you prefer to use in your pasta salads?