Make It Snappy: Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad
“Make It Snappy” is presented by the Goldfish Swimming School in Chapel Hill. With recipes that take just 45 minutes or less to prepare, Christy helps keep you afloat at dinner time!
This month my husband and I are celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary. We were both born and raised here in Chapel Hill and we have such fond memories of dating in our shared hometown. We rediscovered familiar places through a new lens, places that we had each loved on our own, and that we would love together, as a couple.
Many of our cherished date nights were long dinners at 411 West on Franklin Street, which remains one of our favorite dinner destinations on our night out on the town. With a whole pack of young boys on our hands, we don’t go out to eat as often as we used to, but we love to get creative and recreate our favorites at home. Although no longer on the menu, 411 Pasta Salad was one of our all-time favorite dishes in Chapel Hill and has now become a must-have of the week for us. It’s light but filling and it comes together in minutes. This dish is perfect for outdoor summer meals!
My husband loves a big meal, so to sell it on a salad, it must be spectacular. And this, my friends, is a spectacular salad. It opened his eyes to a mix of flavors and textures he could never forget: pasta on a salad. No, not a pasta salad with macaroni and mayonnaise, but a salad topped with short pasta noodles. Add the crunchy bacon and this salad is a textural dream come true. While the original 411 menu dressing was listed as “Creamy Italian,” it had a sweetness that balanced the flavor of traditional Italian dressings. The closest bottled option I’ve found to match is the Simply Dressed Balsamic Vinaigrette, which is found in the refrigerated dressing in the produce aisle of most grocery stores.
Chapel Hill has changed so much in the 11 years we’ve been together and the (almost) 40 years we’ve been here, but luckily 411 has stood the test of time. Next time the opportunity arises, stop for dinner at 411 West on Franklin Street to celebrate a Chapel Hill institution and create your own treasured memories.
GRILLED CHICKEN PASTA SALAD
By: Christy Bray Graves
- 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 8 slices of bacon
- 1 lb short cut dry pasta noodles *
- 10 oz. green salad of your choice **
- 1 to 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
- 1 to 12 ounces. jar of roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
- 8 oz. grated mozzarella cheese
- Simply garnished balsamic vinaigrette
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat your grill on high heat and your oven to 425 °.
- Cook pasta according to package directions, stopping for the shortest recommended cooking time. If the box says to cook for 5-7 minutes, cook for 5 minutes to make sure the pasta is al dente and not too soft.
- Wrap each chicken breast in plastic wrap and use a mallet to pound the chicken until the entire breast is a uniform thickness, about 1 inch. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Lower the grill to medium heat and place the chicken on the grill over direct heat. Cook 9 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. After 9 minutes, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Remove the chicken from the grill as soon as the thermometer reaches 165 °. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
- Arrange the bacon slices on a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 425 ° for 10 to 15 minutes, keeping an eye on it to be sure it reaches the desired level of crispness. Let the bacon cool before crumbling.
- Assemble salads by layering greens, pasta noodles, grilled chicken, artichokes and roasted red peppers. Top with crumbled bacon, mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette. Serve and enjoy!
* The original 411 West dish featured rotini, but you can use farfalle, penne, gemelli, seashells, or campanelles, pictured here.
** My family loves a mix of spring mix and baby spinach.
As the wife and mother of three young boys, I often see myself as a master “chaos coordinator”. Between running our family business, Chapel Hill Toffee, running our household, and balancing busy schedules, I love creating quick and easy recipes that my family will enjoy – and my kids will really eat!
My recipes are more of a guide than a perfect plan. I will always encourage you to use what you have on hand and make substitutions however you like. I invite you to share your own ideas, questions and end products with us on Facebook and Instagram by tagging @christybgraves and @wchlchapelboro.
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