Chicken & Spinach Pasta Salad

If I have learned anything in my few short years of cooking it’s that a Mother’s homemade recipe can put an experienced chef to shame. Well, I’d tell those chefs to pull out their pencils and notebooks, because Mama Watson is about to school them again… This summer Marie, my roommate, came back from her study abroad trip in Seville, Spain and her Mom, Barbie, came to help her move back in. During this visit, us three roomies were spoiled by Barbie’s cooking and I have remade this chicken & spinach pasta salad dish more times than I can count.

chicken and spinach pasta salad, pasta salad, chicken pasta salad, cooking light, healthy recipe, caroline culwell, the life eclectic

I started by toasting some slivered almonds, which made the whole apartment smell amazing! Careful with these, they go from perfection to burnt in about 20 seconds so they require a watchful eye!

chicken and spinach pasta salad, pasta salad, chicken pasta salad, cooking light, healthy recipe, caroline culwell, the life eclectic

In my new skillet grill pan I cooked my chicken pieces that I marinaded in the same dressing that is used for the pasta salad. I let the chicken marinade over night to let the flavors really sink in.

chicken and spinach pasta salad, pasta salad, chicken pasta salad, cooking light, healthy recipe, caroline culwell, the life eclectic

Putting these chicken pieces on skewers made the cooking process much easier, faster, and allowed each piece to carry as much flavor as possible.

chicken and spinach pasta salad, pasta salad, chicken pasta salad, cooking light, healthy recipe, caroline culwell, the life eclectic

For the final mixing process I would recommend a large mixing bowl. While my pasta and chicken were cooking I combined all the raw components for this dish in a mixing bowl.

chicken and spinach pasta salad, pasta salad, chicken pasta salad, cooking light, healthy recipe, caroline culwell, the life eclectic

I piled the hot pasta on top of the spinach to make it wilt and shrink down a little. Then I topped it with Mama Watson’s soy sauce-rice vinegar dressing and tossed everything well.

chicken and spinach pasta salad, pasta salad, chicken pasta salad, cooking light, healthy recipe, caroline culwell, the life eclectic

This recipe makes a pretty big batch, but it keeps well in the fridge and lasts forever! This is a simple recipe and it tastes great- it can even be done without the chicken. Enjoy!

Ingredients
-1 to 2 chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces)
-3 cups uncooked penne pasta
-1 bag spinach
-8 stalks green onions (chopped)
-3/4 cup slivered almonds (toasted)
Ingredients (soy sauce-rice vinegar dressing)
-1/3 cup soy sauce
-1/3 cup rice vinegar
-1/3 cup olive oil
-3 Tbsp dried basil
-1 tsp sugar

Directions
Start by cutting chicken breast(s) into small pieces and place in a gallon ziploc baggie. Use 1/3 of the dressing to marinade the chicken pieces. Place them in the fridge for an hour or over night. Once you are ready to grill the chicken, place a couple pieces on skewers to make the cooking process easier. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread 3/4 cup of slivered almonds across a cookie sheet and bake for about 7 minutes. Watch well since they are small pieces they have a higher burning potential. Once finished set aside. Begin boiling water and heat your skillet grill pan. Once the skillet has reached medium-high heat, place chicken skewers on the grill pan and cook each side for about 4 minutes (you may need to cut into a piece to ensure they are fully cooked). Place chicken on a cutting board, let sit for 10 minutes before cutting into them to ensure that the juices and flavoring really sink in. Boil your penne pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is boiling add a bag of spinach, chopped green onion and toasted almonds into a large mixing bowl. Drain pasta when finished and immediately add to the raw vegetables. Top with the remaining 2/3rds soy sauce-rice vinegar dressing and mix well. Take chicken pieces and add them to the mix and toss to ensure they are coated with the dressing as well. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for a cold-style pasta salad!

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