This salad is an all-out winner. Hearty enough to be a main dish but versatile enough to fit in to any meal, you will love this one year round. I've taken it to dinners and potlucks and served it here at home for both guests-are-coming-over kinds of events and just our everyday family meals. It's also really really easy--more assembly than anything else.
I have never, however, served it without being asked for the recipe. (Well, my family doesn't tend to ask. But only because they know it comes from this favorite cookbook and that this dish will always be in the rotation at our house.)
One thing I especially love is its adaptability. It's pretty healthy as it is but if you know someone's cutting carbs, just drop the pasta. It's still delicious. Vegetarian? It can still stand proudly without the chicken.
1/2 cup prepared pesto (I use the Kirkland brand from Costco or whatever my grocery store has on the shelf)
2 tsp. vinegar (red wine or balsamic)
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or shred up a grocery store roasted chicken if you're in a hurry)
Salt and pepper
1 pkg of fresh cheese and spinach tortellini (or other favorite filled pasta--I use ravioli in a pinch)
1 carton cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into small pieces (I also like to use colorful heirloom ones)
2-3 handfuls of rinsed baby spinach
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly or diced
. . .
Prepare chicken breasts by rubbing with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper and then baking in a 400 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Cool and shred/slice into bite-sized pieces.
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.
On a large platter or bowl, combine salad ingredients. Drizzle pesto dressing over the top and toss. Can be served at room temperature or chilled.