THE BIG DAY–July 4th—is almost here, and I’m scurrying to post this wonderful and oh so easy salad so that you will have time to add it to your picnic spread or buffet table. It’s different enough from traditional Old-Fashioned Creamy Macaroni Salad that I often present it as a spicy alternative or adjunct.
There is something about this salad that keeps folks coming back for seconds, thirds, and yes, even fourths. I love having it on hand during intense work weeks (like this past week), as I seem never to tire of it. I have been known to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but don’t spread that around, eh?
And in case you’re wondering where MauiJim and yours truly will be on Independence Day, check out the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival. And then join us in fabulous Portland, Oregon for the celebration. John Mayall, Booker T., Taj Mahal, and Curtis Salgado here we come!
And if the blues festival is not enough to lure you away from the barbecue, friends, and family, the grand finale fireworks display from a barge on the Willamette River is worth bringing the whole gang.
Happy 4th of July everyone!
Spicy Penne & Chicken Salad with Chipotle Lime Dressing
This salad is wonderful, with or without the chicken. If you use the full tablespoon of chipotle in adobo sauce specified here, the salad will be spicy hot but not tear inducing. You might want to try half that amount if you are unsure of your guest’s heat preferences. Also, do try to find tiny penne, as the dressing and goodies to pasta surface ratio is better with smaller pasta shapes.
Note The amount of dressing that you will need for any particular pasta on any given day will vary, sometimes considerably. If you undercook the pasta just a little, it will suck up the dressing like crazy. Also one brand or shape of pasta will absorb more dressing than another. So use the amount of dressing specified in the recipe, then after the pasta has chilled with the dressing for 3 hours or more in the frig, check the consistency and if needed, add more dressing. For whatever reason, I prefer this salad a little less creamy than Old Fashioned Macaroni Salad. But it’s your decision.
1 pound smallest obtainable, dried penne pasta (about 5 cups)
1 tablespoon fine sea salt, for the pasta water
1 cup pitted, drained Calamata olives, quartered lengthwise
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained, cut into ¼- by 1-inch julienne
1 cup chopped fresh red, yellow, or orange bell pepper
½ cup thinly sliced green onion (about ½ bunch)
¼ cup drained capers
4 cups shredded roasted, well seasoned chicken
Chipotle Lime Dressing
1½ cups “Best Foods” mayonnaise (or other creamy, rich mayonnaise)
½ cup low-fat buttermilk
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon chipotle chile in adobo sauce, finely minced (less if you don’t want the heat)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt, and add the penne. Boil for 6-12 minutes, until the penne is tender but not mushy. Drain and rinse well with cold running water. Drain again, and put into a large mixing bowl. Cover and chill.
- When pasta is thoroughly cold, add the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, bell pepper, green onion, capers, and chicken.
- To make the dressing, put the mayonnaise in a medium-size bowl and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the buttermilk, garlic, lime juice, chipotle chile, mustard, and salt and black pepper to taste. The dressing will taste overly salty at this point—which is fine.
- Pour the dressing over the penne mixture and toss gently to combine. If necessary, season with additional salt, pepper, and lime juice.
- Mound into a 3-quart serving bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Check the consistency after the salad has chilled for at least 3 hours. If necessary, make ½ recipe of the dressing and add incrementally to the salad until you achieve the desired consistency.
Can be made 1-2 days in advance.
Makes 2½ to 3 quarts; Serves 12, or more, if other salads are present.
More Pasta Recipes from LunaCafe:
- LunaCafe OtherWorldly Mac & Cheese
- Old World Spaetzle: The New Pasta?
- Old-Fashioned Creamy Macaroni Salad
- Spinach & Egg Fettuccini with Wild Mushrooms & Pancetta (Straw & Hay)
- Strozzapreti Pasta with Spicy Italian Sausage, Broccolini & Garlic Crema
- World Famous Green Chile Mac & Cheese
Wow, this looks absolutely amazing. And it’s so different than most pasta salads. Can’t wait to try this!
Kim in MD
Susan-you are right…this pasta salad is addicting! I’ve made it several times this summer, and I am making it again in October for my Southwest/Tex-Mex themed party for 25 people. I will need to make LOTS (it is that good)! Thanks for sharing!
Kim in MD
Now this is my kind of pasta salad… I love the flavor combinations! I find your notes about the pasta/dressing ratio on any given day fascinating. What a great tip to make extra dressing and adjust after a few hours. I always make a little extra dressing when making vinaigrette based pasta salads, but haven’t tried it with mayo based salads. I will try it when making this salad…
Susan-your photos are absolutely gorgeous! 🙂
Susan S. Bradley
Kim, thanks so much! So glad you found that extra dressing tip useful. I struggled for years trying t get just the right ratio between the pasta and the dressing and then finally realized (duh) that every batch of mac salad is different.
I like the ingredients you have used.
Happy Independance Day!
This is like summer, shining and bright. bee-yoo-ti-ful pictures and great combination of flavours! Happy 4th to you too!
Baking is my Zen
I LOVE chipotles. This recipe caught my eye because of it. Great photography too!