Almost My Father’s Pasta Salad

by Kelly on June 4, 2010

Almost my father's pasta saladTemperatures have been hovering in the 70’s and 80’s for the past few days in Chicago so I think it is safe to say that barbeque and cookout weather is upon us.  Even though I’ve never been a confident griller, I look forward to these warm weather get togethers.  I love spending the afternoon in someone’s backyard with the intoxicating aroma of a lit grill and the bounty of a folding table stocked with things to nosh on and treats to tame my sweet tooth.   Because I’m not much of a meat eater, my plate is usually built around the side dishes – buttered sweet corn, potato salad, veggies and dip, and my personal favorite, pasta salad.  The variations are almost endless, but every summer I find myself going back to a tried and true recipe – my father’s pasta salad.  This salad is one of the few ways you’ll get me to eat chicken.

Perfect Roast ChickenI prepared the bird using Ina Garten’s recipe for Perfect Roast Chicken (It really did live up to its name.) and tossed it with grapes, celery, scallions, cheddar cheese, cashews and pasta.  I added my own spin with the dressing.  My father’s version is usually mayonnaise spiked with a little vinegar to give it tang and sometimes sugar or honey for sweetness.  It just so happens that as I was gathering ingredients for the salad Whole Foods was having a great sale on avocados (5 for $4) so I decided to add some to my dressing.  Pureed with low fat mayo, nonfat greek yogurt, honey and lime juice, avocados make for a rich dressing that nicely balances sweet and sour.  Delicious yet unfussy, this is a great salad to bring to a cookout or to add to your lunchbox.

Almost my father's pasta salad2

Almost My Father’s Pasta Salad
Serves 8-12 as a side dish


-1 1/3 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
-1 cup halved seedless grapes
-1/3 cup finely diced celery
-1/4 cup chopped scallions (white and light green parts)
-4 ounces cheddar cheese (I used a goat’s milk cheddar), chopped into bite-size cubes
-1/4 cup salted roasted cashews
-8 ounces dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

-1 avocado, peeled and seeded
-1/3 cup low fat mayonnaise
-1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
-2 teaspoons honey
-Juice of one lime
-Salt and pepper to taste


Combine salad ingredients (chicken through pasta) in a bowl, stirring well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Meanwhile, place the dressing ingredients (avocado through lime juice) in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add dressing to salad ingredients stirring well to distribute the dressing evenly.

I’m also submitting this dish to Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice’s June Side Dish Showdown.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

To Kiss the Cook June 4, 2010 at 11:00 pm

This looks incredible!! I love the idea of cashews and honey living so happily among chicken salad. That sounds glorious and I want to try this immediately. Off to find a chicken!


Lauren June 5, 2010 at 6:52 am

Great combination of flavors in this pasta salad! Perfect for summertime.


CaSaundra June 5, 2010 at 8:24 am

Oh wow, this does sound like the flavors would work so well together! I have a few get togethers coming up, so I will bookmark this. Good luck in the Side Dish Showdown 🙂


Kerstin June 6, 2010 at 11:30 am

I love your addition of avocado and yogurt! I’m not a huge mayo fan so this sounds really tasty and it’s so perfect for a potluck!


sophia June 6, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Oh goodness! This is a symphony in a dish!!! What great balance of flavors and textures! I LOVE this! And the fact that you used avocado to bring a touch of creaminess to the dressing…yum!


Chou June 7, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Lovely! I love it when the weather transitions into warm summer in Chicago, mostly because it means free concerts in Grant Park . . .


5 Star Foodie June 8, 2010 at 10:32 am

Lovely pasta salad! I like the grapes and cashews here, very yummy!


Reeni June 8, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Wow! This is unlike any pasta salad I’ve ever seen. Very original and insanely delicious sounding! I love everything about it. Thanks for sending it to the Showdown!


Cara June 14, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Love the addition of the avocado in the dressing – I bet it goes great with the grapes and cashews!


Joanne July 9, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I’m not usually a fan of mayo-based dressings but this pasta salad looks fantastic. I love you add-ins to the dressing. It definitely sounds like something I would like.


Joshua October 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Looks wonderful. I wish I could get good avocados here.


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