Pasta salad with chicken pesto and mozzarella
Wholegrain pasta is a great slow-release fuel to keep you going all afternoon. You could, of course, use ready-made pesto in this tasty salad, but if you’ve never made your own pesto, I urge you to give it a ago. It only takes a quick whizz in the food processor, and the flavour is so vibrant.
Ingredients Serves 2 For the pesto:
50g pine nuts 50g bunch basil, leaves and stalks 25g parmesan, freshly grated 1 clove garlic 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil a squeeze of lemon juice, to taste salt and freshly ground pepper
For the salad:
1 heaped tsp plain flour 300g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3cm cubes 1 tbsp olive oil 150g wholegrain pasta 250g cherry tomatoes, quartered 1 ball mozzarella, torn into bite sized pieces salt and freshly ground pepper
1. To make the pesto, set a small frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the pine nuts. Toast for a few minutes until golden brown and smelling nutty, then tip into a food processor and whizz until ground. Roughly tear the basil stems and leaves, trimming the stalks only at the very ends if they are really thick, and add to the food processor, whizzing until finely chopped. Add the parmesan, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Scrape into a mixing bowl (large enough to toss the salad in) and set aside.
2. For the salad, sprinkle the flour on to a plate, season well with salt and pepper, then toss the chicken in the flour to lightly coat.
3. Set a frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the oil. When it’s hot, tip in the chicken. Spread it out in a single layer, and fry until crisp and golden, turning a couple of times until it’s cooked all the way through – about 15-18 mins. Remove the chicken and put on a plate lined with a couple of sheets of kitchen paper to drain any excess oil.
4. While the chicken is frying, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions – about 12 mins at a hearty boil. Drain the pasta into a colander, then run briefly under cold water to cool before draining really well. Tip into the mixing bowl, and toss through the pesto until it’s evenly coated.
5. Add the cooked chicken, tomatoes and mozzarella and toss together. Pack into your lunchboxes, and chill until you are ready to hike. And don’t forget to pack a fork! This salad will happily keep in the fridge overnight if you want make it ahead.