Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken & Asparagus

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a pesto pasta salad with grilled chicken, charred asparagus & green onions, fresh mozzarella, castelvetrano olives, and basil pesto dressing

servings: 10-12 (side dish servings)



Pasta Salad

  • 1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • kosher salt, as needed
  • 1 lb DeLallo Cavatappi Pasta
  • 1 lb fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 4 green onions, white and green parts separated + greens thinly sliced
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella (bocconcini), drained + quartered
  • 1 (5.3oz) jar DeLallo Pitted Castelvetrano Olives, halved

Pesto Dressing

  • 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Add the chicken to a bowl with the garlic, crushed red pepper, fennel seeds, olive oil, and a good pinch of salt. Toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, make the pesto. Add the basil, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor. Process until roughly chopped. With the processor running, stream in the olive oil until combined. Season with salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Drop the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool.
  4. Preheat the grill with one side over high heat and the other side over medium heat. Bring the chicken to room temperature and let sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Oil the grates of the grill. Place the chicken onto the grill over high heat. Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side until a crust forms. Transfer the chicken to medium heat. Close the grill and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through (the chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F – continue cooking if needed). Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest.
  6. Coat the asparagus and green onions (white parts) with a drizzle of olive oil. Place them onto the high section of the grill and cook until slightly charred and tender, turning often (approximately 1-2 minutes for the green onions and 4-5 minutes for the asparagus). Transfer both to the cutting board.
  7. Slice the chicken across the grain, and then cut it into smaller pieces. Cut the asparagus into 1” pieces and roughly chop the green onions.
  8. Combine the pasta, chicken, asparagus, green onions, fresh mozzarella, olives, and pesto in a large bowl. Toss well to combine. Serve at room temperature. Top with more grated parmesan if desired.


If you want to use store-bought pesto, DeLallo carries a really great pesto as well. You’ll need 2 (6oz) jars for a full batch of pasta salad.